Rick Lorenzon
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I'm wondering if people take issue when we use images off of our Google searches to put together a prototype for a game idea? Is most of that considered public domain? Generally, no one plans on selling a prototype, we just need to put something physical together with some sort of graphics to illustrate the ideas of the game, right? I don't know how much that infringes on anything, whether legal or personal - I'm hoping it's not usually an issue, but I'm trying to figure out what the general consensus is.

EDIT: This is in reference to a prototype used only for play testing an idea, and maybe posting about it on these forums to share ideas/ gain interest in the game idea. It would not be used for submissions to publishers, etc.
 
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Chris F.
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It's not public domain, and I would avoid using images you don't own in review copies or submissions to publishers.

For playtesting prototypes, I can't see a problem with using googled images.
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provided you're merely using them for a prototype I see no issue with it, after all nobody else will see it outside of yourself and friends. If you wanted to take some pictures to share here you could consider finding out who owns the image in question, if possible, and ask permission.

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Rick Lorenzon
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Thanks, that sounds like the right place to draw the line. I put together a lot of googled art to make my prototype look cool and enticing for my family and friends to enjoy playing, but I guess it's time to start working on some original artwork and obtaining rights & permissions for anything that I plan to use in a reviewable demo version of the game.
 
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Personally, I don't think it's worth the risk. Playtesters, especially here on BGG, understand that prototypes don't have final art, yet. It's fairly normal to have no or simple art and is expected. If you have someone else's art on your prototype, you run the risk of someone seeing it and beginning to think of you as a thief or, worst case, suing you.

If you use a publisher instead of publishing it yourself, many publishers don't want your art. They want to do the art themselves. In that case, having no art or simple placeholder art is a bonus to them and to you (you spent no money on it). If you show copied art to your publisher, even accidentally, you could ruin your relationship with them.

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mokheshur wrote:
... but I'm trying to figure out what the general consensus is.

In my opinion the general consensus is that most people are far too uptight about it. Really, for playtesting at most a few copies... go ahead, scrape Google. Fair use, fair dealing, and all that. The Copyright Police won't come barging in while printing your game stuff; and if people at your playtesting table start complaining that you had no right to use the images, I recommend quick defenestration and subsequent replacement by another playtester.

The real question that needs answering is whether usage of such images wouldn't detract from the important thing: getting the mechanisms of the game in order. Simply put, if you spend more time getting the looks of the game material correct rather than the actual data the players need for actual play, you're doing it wrong. There are of course always cases where looks and layout are synonymous, but those are few and far between (and you'll recognise such a case upon encountering it).

So, feel free to grab images as you see fit, but don't ignore the possibility of using simple, easily drawable, easily replaceable, and easily recognisable shapes.
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No, not really. Look at Food Chain Magnate. The entirety of that game's illustrations are taken from stock photos, some of which I doubt they paid for given that they have slight alterations. And that's a game that's commercially available!

So I don't really see the problem with using whatever the heck you want in your prototype.
 
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Jake Staines
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mokheshur wrote:
I'm wondering if people take issue when we use images off of our Google searches to put together a prototype for a game idea? Is most of that considered public domain?


Four things:


1) Images found off Google absolutely can not simply be assumed to be public domain. Nearly every image in Google's image search results is copyrighted and you would need to get permission and/or pay a fee to use it commercially. Google will index more or less any image on any website anywhere, and most of those are not public domain.


2) If you want to find images you can use for your prototype and/or commercial products without concern, then there are a number of resources you can look through. For example, if you click "Search Tools" at the top of a Google Image Search, then a new toolbar appears; click "Usage Rights" on that, and you can tell Google to only return search results "labelled for reuse with modification", which means you can do more or less anything you want with them. (There are a few images you'll find that someone has nicked from someone else's site and uploaded with reuse license tags, but generally the results from that search should be fine for a prototype.) There are also several libraries (notably the British Library and the New York Public Library, of late) who have put their collections of public domain material online for anyone to download and re-use - these are pretty much guaranteed to be safe.


3) It's actually quite common in some industries to use copyrighted images in layout mock-ups and prototypes, with the understanding between all parties that the images are just meant to give an understanding of how the final layout will look, and won't actually be used in the production version. This is signified by writing "FPO" - "For Position Only" - over the top of the image in big letters.


4) There are a few libraries of game-related iconography which are free to use, such as Game-Icons.net.



There are a million conflicting bits of advice on whether publishers want to see a nicely-illustrated, ready-to-publish game or a loose prototype with black-and-white placeholder graphics, and whether publishers care or not that you use copyrighted material in your submissions. In reality it almost certainly varies from publisher to publisher. But given the ready availability of safe artwork, illustrations and icons, it's better to be safe and use only public-domain or royalty-free artwork, no?
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Rick Lorenzon
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Some really helpful info and advice so far everyone, thanks!

I wanted my prototype to look and feel like a mostly finished product mainly because we're starting to put in a lot of hours play testing it. The gameplay and game mechanics are fun and keep us engaged pretty well so far, but having a nice graphic design to go with it helps to stay immersed in the theme. It's a steampunk themed game, and part of the resource management involves keeping track of steam production and allocation. This is done on guages and dials with metal spinner arrows tacked onto each player's game board.

Anyway, I have to have enough graphic design elements for this to work, even tho the artwork would probably change significantly later on once I start seeking publishers. That's OK - but I do want to start sharing more about the game here in the forums with some pictures to illustrate.

I have purchased licenses for some graphics (less than $3 each on Etsy) and done some original stuff with my own photos & Photoshop. But when it came to the various card decks, there was a lot more I needed to come up with to get a working prototype ready. Hopefully with these other resources here & in other threads I can redo enough to start sharing more!
 
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I'm pretty sure so long as you aren't profiting off the use of the images you're covered under Fair Use. I'm not a lawyer though.
 
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Awry Games wrote:
I'm pretty sure so long as you aren't profiting off the use of the images you're covered under Fair Use. I'm not a lawyer though.


That absolutely isn't the case.

None of the people taken to court by the MPAA or RIAA for sharing movies/music on bittorrent or whatever were profiting from it, but it was still copyright infringement.
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Bichatse wrote:
Awry Games wrote:
I'm pretty sure so long as you aren't profiting off the use of the images you're covered under Fair Use. I'm not a lawyer though.


That absolutely isn't the case.

None of the people taken to court by the MPAA or RIAA for sharing movies/music on bittorrent or whatever were profiting from it, but it was still copyright infringement.


Like I said, I just don't think it's worth the risk for an unnecessary and minuscule reward. If your friends don't understand that the game is under development and you don't have the money or need for fancy art, you might need to explain it to them.

It's your game and your decision. Good luck either way.
 
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I'm not a lawyer either, but the way I understand it, Jake is correct. Fair use means you can use small portions of a work you legally acquired for educational or critical use. I.e. you could show a small part of a movie during a movie review show, or cite an author's theory when teaching a class. The key parts is that it was legally acquired (not found on the Internet), and that it's a small part of a much larger work.

Fair use also allows for use of a work for parody, which does create a big window for legal fights, but there isn't a clear way to know what would happen. Supposedly, Wierd Al Yankovic still seeks out the original artist's permission for his parodies, even though he would probably be safe. His "nice guy" approach has probably helped avoid a lot of legal fees and maintains a good reputation with other artists. By comparison, some artists who use samples that sound less like the original work, end up spending $100,000s in legal fees and settlements (Google the Robin Thicke Good Time legal fight for an example). Getting permission is clearly a good thing.

That said, it is very unlikely the original poster will have issues with the example given. Odds are it's not worth the time and legal expense for the original artists to search for people using their works, and if it's just prototype use, the odds of them finding it are even smaller.

But if the game moves beyond a prototype with friends and family, it's best to create your own art, hire/get permission from an artist, or hire a lawyer who can give better advice. Companies don't want to risk losing their potential revenue to a legal fight, and would want to know the art is safe. Some companies might even prefer to not see art, as they would retheme the design, or have their in house artist earn their paycheck.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Bichatse wrote:
None of the people taken to court by the MPAA or RIAA for sharing movies/music on bittorrent or whatever were profiting from it, but it was still copyright infringement.

That's quite true: making profit or not is not a prerequisite for actual infringement. But also note that the OP is hardly sharing on the scale of a p2p-network, and has also indicated the art wouldn't be used for copies sent out to prospective publishers.

GeorgeMo wrote:
Like I said, I just don't think it's worth the risk for an unnecessary and minuscule reward. If your friends don't understand that the game is under development and you don't have the money or need for fancy art, you might need to explain it to them.

So what? And excuse me? Friends are smart enough to understand the game, but not a bit of IP law?

This is really the sort of uptightness I was talking about. There is no 'risk': that's the point of fair use, fair dealing, or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods. The law allows infringement without express permission, but naturally only on a very small scale, under a specific set of circumstances. If you are worried about 'the risk', then you ought not to be using this website with blatant infringements on a much larger scale than what the OP is planning.

That said, of course there have been cases where overzealous IP lawyers overstepped the boundaries of all reasonability: there's Kwanchai's remake of Ogre where his own photographs of his own original artwork on his own blog were C&D'ed by SJG (an action miraculously forgotten when Ogre got it's massive re-edition), and there's the poor bloke with a tattoo of some GW-copyrighted art from one of their games (Blood Bowl?) who provoked their legal ire. Hell, BGG was served C&Ds too... although GW's legal case was stronger here (see above). And even given these nasty yet very rare occurrences, I still would tell—have told, in fact—the OP to go right ahead. An overzealous lawyer will always be able to find something to make your life miserable.
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cymric wrote:
GeorgeMo wrote:
Like I said, I just don't think it's worth the risk for an unnecessary and minuscule reward. If your friends don't understand that the game is under development and you don't have the money or need for fancy art, you might need to explain it to them.

So what? And excuse me? Friends are smart enough to understand the game, but not a bit of IP law?

This is really the sort of uptightness I was talking about. There is no 'risk': that's the point of fair use, fair dealing, or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods. The law allows infringement without express permission, but naturally only on a very small scale, under a specific set of circumstances. If you are worried about 'the risk', then you ought not to be using this website with blatant infringements on a much larger scale than what the OP is planning.


I apologize if I wasn't clear. My point is if friends are complaining about the lack of art or saying the game sucks or they won't play just because of prototype-level art, then they're being crappy friends. That's what I was trying to say - nothing about their understanding of IP or law.
 
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My apologies too then, for misunderstanding what you were trying to convey. Of course they are crappy friends under those circumstances.
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Family and friends I don't worry about, but if I want to get friends of friends who are interested, or just interested gamers at the local game shop who want to help play test, I'm hoping I wouldn't set off any issues.

But I think I do need to draw the line with what I post here, as far as images go. I'm already working on the elements of my game boards so I can put completely legally owned images in my posts.
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Now that I've been re-working my design, I'm glad I did my first prototype the way I did, borrowing stuff to get a physical layout done. The process helped me learn a lot more about Photoshop, and I also got to see what elements I like & don't like as much, so in my new design, I can make changes that will help players understand the boards, icons, and cards better.

On a different note, but very related to my OP, what legal issues are there in regards to fonts? If I find cool free downloads for fonts, am I free to use them how I want?
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I've done lots of prototype artwork for designers. NOT ONE publisher has EVER commented to me that they don't like my use of artwork grabbed from whatever source I can find to make a mock up of a game. Ruin relationships? More has been made of this kind of foolishness in wargaming than warrants the time necessary to write about it.
 
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mokheshur wrote:

On a different note, but very related to my OP, what legal issues are there in regards to fonts? If I find cool free downloads for fonts, am I free to use them how I want?


It varies a lot.

The first problem you have with font downloads is that there are a lot of sites claiming to give you "free" downloads of fonts which are actually commercial fonts. In these cases, you have no legitimate license to use the font and therefore cannot legally do so. If you're going to use a font for publishing, it's best to hunt down the originator of the font (often the file will have metadata that tells you the name of the designer and/or foundry, even if the download site doesn't) and ask them whether it's legitimately available for free on the site you found it on. Or look around their own site - if they're giving it away, great! If they're selling it, it's a bit of a clue.

The second problem is that a lot of fonts are distributed with licenses which restrict your usage to certain kinds of project, e.g. "you may use this font for free personal projects but not for commercial work". The term "commercial work" could easily be stretched to refer to - for example - the YouTube video you put together to advertise your KS campaign. Let alone the game itself! Often the font will come in an archive which also includes a license file, but sometimes you'll need a careful reading of the designer's website.



The interesting thing about font files is that (at least in my jurisdiction - check yours!) they're not considered creative works in and of themselves - they're considered computer software that can be used to create things. Just like a picture you paint in Photoshop isn't owned in any part by Adobe, a picture containing words you got from a font isn't owned in any part by the people who made that font. And just like Photoshop, you need the license in order to legally use that software in the first place.



There are legitimate free-font sites on the Internet, but even then they will sometimes have not-actually-free fonts uploaded. The best bet is always to go to totally-legit sites like http://www.myfonts.com - they can take a bit of finding sometimes, but the site does also carry some free fonts amongst all the paid ones.
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