Recommend
1 
 Thumb up
 Hide
14 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design

Subject: legal likeness question rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jeremy Buckmaster
United States
Ada
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have a hypothetical question. If someone were to be designing a game about action figure combat. And they chose to have a character called "the boxer" and used an actual rocky action figure in some of the card art, photos they have taken themselves at home, of their own action figure. Would they be opening themselves up to legal troubles. I don't understand how "likenesses and such work." I know the action figure companies pay to license a likeness, and I know if I was to take a photo and try to use it in a game I would have to pay for the likeness, but what about photos of an action figure? Without using any licensed names, no characters named "Rocky Balboa" or anything like that, just generic characters using an actual figure for the artwork. Like if I take a ghostbuster figure and have a character in my game named "science nerd" or something like that.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul DeStefano
United States
Long Island
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
It's a Zendrum. www.zendrum.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
If you use someone else's work, you open yourself to troubles.

Someone else sculpted and manufactured that item. If they don't agree with the way you have represented it (Rocky would NEVER do such and such), even if you don't make a dime off of it, you can get into trouble.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Walters
United States
Hercules
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Yup.

Photos of sculpture are an interesting case because there are two copyrights: for the sculpture and for the photo. You can't use the photo without their permission, they can't use the photo without your permission. By "use" we mean reproduce and distribute.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Buckmaster
United States
Ada
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow, I thought with stop-motion, and everything that stuff would be different. I wonder how MTV got away with celebrity deathmatch all those years.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nicholas Vitek
United States
Houston
Texas
flag msg tools
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Either they licensed it, doubtful, or they're covered under parody law is my guess.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Buckmaster
United States
Ada
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
looks like I need to research parody laws
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gladen Blackshield
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mb
Celebrity Deathmatch got away with it due to big-bucks, playing the satire / parody angle, and the fact that they did not use actual copyrighted deisgns created by somebody else.

Seth Green's Robot chicken gets away with it on many of the same points, mainly that it is a parody that utilizes action figures.

However, your question involves using a copyrighted (and usually trademarked to boot) item as original material.

The dual copyright mention above is correct: they cannot use your photo without your permission, you cannot use the photo of their item without permission.

You might also fall into the area of derivative work; which bascially would mean that your work is a straight extrapolation of theirs and therefore copyright infringement. This happened in the infamous Dr. Stew videos done by Kevin Karstens recently (Stewie Griffin as Dr. Who).

Now if you have art that was reminiscent of this or that action figure, you can protect yourself under parody, influenced by, satire of, etc.

But if you use another company's property it is infringement. The fact that you own one of these figures doesn't imbue the ability to reproduce it or its likeness for any endeavor, commerical or not.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Buckmaster
United States
Ada
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks everyone for the information. Basically I am looking at making a "celebrity deathmatch" type of game. Except of course I was planning on using action figures for the artwork on the cards. I had already made a couple of the cards two of the cards for example were titled "speech impediment" and another was titled "I am not a man Im a piece of plastic". Wonder where I would sit legally.....hmmm
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J J
Australia
flag msg tools
VShadowHeart wrote:
Thanks everyone for the information. Basically I am looking at making a "celebrity deathmatch" type of game. Except of course I was planning on using action figures for the artwork on the cards. I had already made a couple of the cards two of the cards for example were titled "speech impediment" and another was titled "I am not a man Im a piece of plastic". Wonder where I would sit legally.....hmmm


Draw your own caricatures of real people (famous actors, politicians, those who are famous for being famous). No problems there. It's when you start using characters that you get into trouble.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim M-L
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One problem of law suits is that there is essentially no screening when they are filed. Even if you are completely justified in your actions, successfully defending yourself will be quite expensive.

So, many activities require a risk vs. reward analysis. In this situation, it is quite unlikely that you would be sued without a few strongly worded warnings first.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
timlillig wrote:
One problem of law suits is that there is essentially no screening when they are filed. Even if you are completely justified in your actions, successfully defending yourself will be quite expensive.

So, many activities require a risk vs. reward analysis. In this situation, it is quite unlikely that you would be sued without a few strongly worded warnings first.


When in doubt... dont.

Using action figures will get you in trouble with the action figure company, possibly the person its based on, or if its a movie character, then the comany that owns it. And movie companies can be very aggressive.

And if you want an example of what sort of reaction using action figures can get you. Just look up a certain edition of Cyberpunk V3.0...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
B C Z
United States
Reston
Virginia
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
VShadowHeart wrote:
And they chose to have a character called "the boxer" and used an actual rocky action figure in some of the card art, photos they have taken themselves at home, of their own action figure. Would they be opening themselves up to legal troubles.


I am not a lawyer.

A photograph that you take is your copyright.
But the likeness of the sculpt is owned by the producer of the sculpt.

Ask yourself this question. If you had a card called "the Armored Space Combatant" and it was of a Games Workshop Space Marine, would you get a letter?

If you even think the answer isn't "Yes" you're fooling yourself.

My recommendation is to draw sketches of action figures (that way you own the artwork) and make sure they don't look like someone else's very protected IP.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
monchi
Canada
Burnaby
BC
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You should jump onto some photography sites and check on their forums. Photography is a funny thing. As mentioned by BT, as soon as you take a picture you own that image. There is some grey area with regards to taking pictures of copyrighted or trademarked things, but there does seem to be loop holes and exceptions. I am sure than if you do a quick search for photography forums you will find a bunch out there that have addressed this issue as it is something all professional photographers have to deal with.

The US is an interesting place for all this kind of stuff. I think you will find that if you take pictures of the figures that you aren't breaking copyright laws, but instead you would be possibly be infringing on trademarking laws. It seems like as soon as you take a photo of something it kind of falls into "art" so you become the creator of the image. The grey area seems to be something about the intent of the use or something like that. For instance, you can photograph a model under a Coke sign and use it providing the Coke sign has nothing to do with the model and it is just part of the background. There is some odd association rule.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Neumann
United States
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
The real problem you're having is you want to be reminiscent of Celebrity Death Match, so you feel you need to use the action figures. Using the action figures puts you into such a grey area that you are hurting yourself if you do it. Just don't.

Perhaps you could reinvent the death match with something outside of trademark. My first thought is Deity Death Match, pitting Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and other polytheistic gods against each other. If that's too spiritually awkward, perhaps you can do a Celebrity Death Match involving long dead celebrities...Christopher Columbus, Leonardo da Vinci, and Queen Elizabeth I in a ring to the death!

Anyway, you have options that don't expose you to judicial scariness.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.