Chris Hall
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So, here's the deal - recently, it was announced that one of my favourite games - Call of Cthulhu - was being discontinued as a "living" card game. In other words, no new expansions would be coming out, and no new events would be held in support of the game.

Members of the general community have been wondering about the possibility of a fan expansion - what's the legality concerning this? We'd want to use, for example, the card templates and general terminology of the game. All of this would be non-commercial and completely non-profit.

Several other card games have fan expansions - Star Trek CCG, for example, but what's the legal status of these? Do they fall under fair use?

Any help would be appreciated.
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Seth Owen
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chall wrote:
So, here's the deal - recently, it was announced that one of my favourite games - Call of Cthulhu - was being discontinued as a "living" card game. In other words, no new expansions would be coming out, and no new events would be held in support of the game.

Members of the general community have been wondering about the possibility of a fan expansion - what's the legality concerning this? We'd want to use, for example, the card templates and general terminology of the game. All of this would be non-commercial and completely non-profit.

Several other card games have fan expansions - Star Trek CCG, for example, but what's the legal status of these? Do they fall under fair use?

Any help would be appreciated.


Purely up to the copyright holder what they are willing to allow. Some companies allow and encourage fan crested content, some do not. Fans have no legal legs to stand on, however. "fair use" doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It doesn't cover fan created derivitive works. It covers using portions of a copyrighted work for academic or journalistic purposes.

The non-profit or non-commercial nature of the project and the fact the game has been discontinued are of no legal consequence at all.

I am not a lawyer, but as a media professional for three decades I had to have a working knowledge of copyright law. For specific legal advice uin naturally should contact a lawyer. Also you should look into how copyright varies by nation. Still, copyright principles are not too difficult and the basic answer is that the stuff is under copyright and the holder of the copyright has the legal right to control its distribution.
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fortheloveofdice
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wargamer55 wrote:
"fair use" doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It doesn't cover fan created derivitive works. It covers using portions of a copyrighted work for academic or journalistic purposes.

Actually if you look at something like sampling music in other music, that falls under 'fair use' clauses, even for commercial purposes. It is not an idea specific to academic or journalistic purposes.

As for the OP, unfortunately I don't know enough about the legalality of fan fiction and fan expansions to comment.
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Chris Hall
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Quote:
"fair use" doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It doesn't cover fan created derivitive works. It covers using portions of a copyrighted work for academic or journalistic purposes.


Well...I didn't actually say what I thought "fair use" means (that would be the purpose of my asking the question). With that said, I'm fairly sure it extends beyond academic and journalistic use, to parody, for example.
 
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Samuel Hinz
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I wouldn't contact a lawyer, I'd contact ffg
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Under the paving stones, the beach
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chall wrote:
Do they fall under fair use?


Probably not. But fair use is an affirmative defense, so the only way to test that is in court. Which I'd suggest you wouldn't really want to be getting yourself into, even if you did win.

You'd almost certainly be running into trademark law as well, which is entirely different including how it defines "fair use".

As other people have suggested, contact the publisher. You may well find them amenable.
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Gláucio Reis
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Seriously, who cares? There are fan-made expansions for many (even in-print) games, and they are embraced by BGG. As long you are not selling it, you should be fine. In any case, the worst that may happen is that the publisher demands you to take down the files, but even that is very unlikely (unless it's for a GW game, of course).
 
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Brad Miller
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What they said. But it's not like the CoC card pool isn't enough for a deep, complex, game. Let it die. Explore the existing gamespace...
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Seth Owen
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fortheloveofdice wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
"fair use" doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It doesn't cover fan created derivitive works. It covers using portions of a copyrighted work for academic or journalistic purposes.

Actually if you look at something like sampling music in other music, that falls under 'fair use' clauses, even for commercial purposes. It is not an idea specific to academic or journalistic purposes.

As for the OP, unfortunately I don't know enough about the legalality of fan fiction and fan expansions to comment.


I didn't mean to imply that Fair Use was only for academic of journalistic purposes. I probably should have added the words "for example." You are right that "sampling" has been found OK under certain circumstances, but a fan-made expansion would probably not be analogous to music sampling.

 
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I've seen questions like this before on BGG, but didn't save any links.

IIRC, it's very hard (perhaps impossible) to copyright an entire game:
* Art can be copyrighted
* The rulebook as a whole can be copyrighted

but:
* Specific rules can't be copyrighted. I've seen it claimed that because rules can't be copyrighted, a re-implementation of a game (same rules; different art, pieces, rulebook) is possible

e.g. WoTC managed to copyright the word "Tap", but couldn't stop others using the same mechanism under a different name.


Don't take this as proof. I'm not a lawyer, and this is just from memory ... but I strongly suggest you search the Game Design forum here on BGG, and ask the same question there.
 
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Pasi Ojala
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Get the Imperial Assault Campaign module for Vassal from http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Star_Wars:_Imperial_Assault
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Vapix wrote:
IIRC, it's very hard (perhaps impossible) to copyright an entire game:
* Art can be copyrighted
* The rulebook as a whole can be copyrighted

* Art (any substantial creative works) is automatically copyrighted for its creator (except when it infringes other copyrights). Creative works can be registered to allow to sue also for damages.
* The rulebook as a whole is automatically copyrighted for its creator. It can be registered to allow to sue also for damages.

Yes, rules itself can not be copyrighted. Some things can be patented, and some phrases are also trademarked.

For fan expansions the most probable stumbling blocks are trademarks and copyrights on the art (registered or otherwise).

Disclaimer: not a lawyer.
 
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chall wrote:
So, here's the deal - recently, it was announced that one of my favourite games - Call of Cthulhu - was being discontinued as a "living" card game. In other words, no new expansions would be coming out, and no new events would be held in support of the game.

Members of the general community have been wondering about the possibility of a fan expansion - what's the legality concerning this? We'd want to use, for example, the card templates and general terminology of the game. All of this would be non-commercial and completely non-profit.

Several other card games have fan expansions - Star Trek CCG, for example, but what's the legal status of these? Do they fall under fair use?

Any help would be appreciated.
Very generally...

...blatantly infringing, but the damages would be minimal and the potential blowback pretty severe, so not worth anyone's trouble.

Pete (is not offering anyone legal advice)
 
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