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Subject: Posting rules- copyright issues rss

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Laura Meyer
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Is it necessary to contact a company to get approval for posting the rules to the games?

I am very wary about posting content that is copyrighted.

I am sure this has been addressed before, but could someone please refresh me?
 
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Chris Kice
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If it's an aid or summary that you put together that doesn't use any of their graphics or logos, then it's okay.

If you're posting a scan or company-provided PDF of the rules, then you need their permission.
 
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Laura Meyer
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I planned on typing them into a word document and providing a link to the company website.
 
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Will you be typing them word for word, or summarizing the rules?
 
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Laura Meyer
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Verkisto wrote:
Will you be typing them word for word, or summarizing the rules?


I will be paraphrasing as much as possible, but not on points that need to stated clearly in the rules.
 
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Lacombe
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I'm a student of copyright law (BM in Music Industry Studies, particularly; the laws for music are the same as the laws for other arts, including literature [even rulebooks]), so I'll try to give you a relatively informed opinion. Posting a scan (without permission, of course) is certainly an infringement of copyright; posting a re-typing / re-formatting of the rules is also a clear infringement; posting a paraphrase of the rules is a give-or-take issue, however. Copyright law says you (as someone other than the copyright owner) cannot create a "derivative work," which is defined as a new copyrightable work "based on or incorporating pre-existing works," without the permission of the copyright owners of those pre-existing works.

To figure out whether you've made a derivative work or simply used the original work in a legal way ("fair use," the law calls it), you have to look at how much of the original you took and used in your own work (your paraphrase, in this instance), how creative / copyrightable the portion of the original work you took was (taking a sentence such as "You score ten points for the longest chain in any of the five colors of camels," for instance, would probably not be a derivative work since the original work was not copyrightable in and of itself), and what effect your use will have on the market value of the original (if you paraphrase the rules and then sell your paraphrase at a lower price [or no price] than the publisher sells their rulebook, you're certainly affecting their market, and you've probably made a derivative work if the other conditions are met).

The tricky thing here is that you cannot copyright ideas, methods, procedures, or anything else along those lines, which is primarily what a rulebook for a game contains (for example, you can't copyright the idea that upright Icehouse pieces are considered "defenders" in the namesake game, while flat Icehouse pieces are considered "attackers"). Also, since most of the data contained in a rulebook is not usually particularly creative (copyright is supposed to protect artists, primarily, and the works they create) the vast majority of it is not copyrightable by itself (it has to be put together with all the other content of the rulebook, the pictures, the examples, the other rules, etc, in order to be copyrightable as a whole); this means that it is the rulebook as a whole, as the particular arrangement of all these various non-copyrightable ideas and short fragments of data, that is copyrighted, and not any individual rule within.

What this means, essentially, is that a summary of the rules is probably, in most cases, alright and non-infringing. If you take actual sentences from the rulebook, you're treading on thinner ice, and you need to be certain that the parts you take are not creative enough on their own to be copyrightable. Finally, you need to ask yourself whether what you're doing is going to have a noticeable financial effect on the market for the original rulebook.

-Nate
 
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Barak Engel
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Nate, your opinion is certainly legally solid, but I do believe there is an issue that makes this largely irrelevant. Essentially, for any sort of lawsuit arising from something like copyright to be brought, one has to show damages. I can hardly imagine a scenario where this will happen even if someone does rewrite the rules in word and post them here, legalspeak and lawyer wrangling notwithstanding.

Now, if you were to scan the rules, and then try to SELL the resulting PDF file, then you will get in trouble for sure.

So - again this is IMO - do what you propose, retype the rules into Word and post them. No one can come after you. The worst that can happen is the copyright holder spends a few hundred bucks on their lawyer to issue a threatening (and most likely impossible to back-up with legal action) letter to BGG to remove the material (based on the notion that the site is gaining materially from the posting), and then Aldie will probably take it down just to avoid the hassle.

EDIT: I just noticed your last statement so you seem to realize the above as well. Since the rulebook is not sold separately from the game, it will be literally impossible to show damages in such a case.
 
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Chris Kice
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I think the issue isn't so much a fear of getting sued by a game company but rather what the admins here have stated as acceptible and how they want to handle it.

To me, taking a PDF freely distributed on a company's web site and re-hosting it is prefectly legit. I also believe using a game logo on a rules summary is well within fair use.

The powers that be here, however, want these types of things to be cleared by the company in question.
 
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Lacombe
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lightnng wrote:
EDIT: I just noticed your last statement so you seem to realize the above as well. Since the rulebook is not sold separately from the game, it will be literally impossible to show damages in such a case.


Yes, I realize that this kind of thing is extraordinarily unlikely to raise any real legal trouble. It's always best, however, to err on the safe side, I think. You are quite right that it would be impossible to show actual damages since there is no telling how many (if any) rulebook sales (some companies do seem to offer their rulebooks separately; I know I can buy a replacement Settlers rulebook, for example, from Mayfair) were lost by the posting of the rules elsewhere and since the "infringing" party is not receiving any money for their use of the rules. The best a publisher could hope for would be to receive statutory damages (something like $750-30,000 [USD], depending on severity) and have the infringing material removed, but most publishers would not go to the trouble to fight that case and would simply, as was said, send a threatening letter. I've dealt with this issue (posting of copyrighted material) with a friend of mine who runs a large guitar tablature website, when he had various publishers coming after him because some of the tabs on the site had lyrics attached to them. We removed the lyrics and haven't heard from the publishers since.
 
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Lacombe
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Nekura wrote:
To me, taking a PDF freely distributed on a company's web site and re-hosting it is prefectly legit. I also believe using a game logo on a rules summary is well within fair use.


You use the terms "legit" (meaning "legal," technically) and "fair use" (a term specifically used in copyright law), but neither of your examples are either legal or fair, according to the law. The one is a violation of the exclusive right to distribute copyrighted material (which is why the publisher can distribute the PDF, but you can't) and the other is a violation of trademark and graphical copyrights. Sorry.

The question here really isn't a legal one (it's clear that it's illegal to post copyrighted material), but a question of what you can get away with (how much can you take before you infringe copyright; how much can you "infringe" before anyone cares and any damage is done).
 
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Ron Pfeiffer
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Since this discussion seems to have a fair number of legal advice in it I have a question of a similar vain. If you cannot download a picture of a game from another site because of some kind of infringement of copyright law why is it legal for this site to allow you to take your own picture of the game and send it in. Why doesn't the game company have copyrights regarding the box and taking a picture of it and by the same token why does someone else ( A game selling company who simply takes a picture of the game to sell it) now have copyright protection regarding a PICTURE OF A COPYRIGHTED GAME!
 
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Lacombe
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fuzzyfife wrote:
Since this discussion seems to have a fair number of legal advice in it I have a question of a similar vain. If you cannot download a picture of a game from another site because of some kind of infringement of copyright law why is it legal for this site to allow you to take your own picture of the game and send it in. Why doesn't the game company have copyrights regarding the box and taking a picture of it and by the same token why does someone else ( A game selling company who simply takes a picture of the game to sell it) now have copyright protection regarding a PICTURE OF A COPYRIGHTED GAME!


The short answer is that the relevant copyright is in the photograph itself rather than in the content thereof. If you didn't shoot the photograph (or pay someone else to shoot it for you), you can't distribute it.

Whether or not the inclusion of copyrighted material (box art, etc) within the content of the photograph itself is a problem is another issue, and a messier one.
 
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Harvey Wasserman
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Then there's the "gone and forgotten" game. It's out-of-print, the company went out-of-business, and the copyright owner is apparently unreachable (short of an extensive search to find him/her). The copyright is still in effect, for the original copyright owner, or an assignee, but enquiring minds want to know: WHAT ARE THE RULES? And what about translations?
 
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Lacombe
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CrocWrestler wrote:
Then there's the "gone and forgotten" game. It's out-of-print, the company went out-of-business, and the copyright owner is apparently unreachable (short of an extensive search to find him/her). The copyright is still in effect, for the original copyright owner, or an assignee, but enquiring minds want to know: WHAT ARE THE RULES? And what about translations?


Well, technically, copyright can be abandoned in the same way any other property (yes, even intellectual property) can... by voluntary relinquishment of the rights of ownership to the property expressed by an act or failure to act that displays such intention. It would probably be a bit hard to prove for sure that a publisher had abandoned the copyright on a game, but one can probably make reasonable assumptions (in the same way you assume one has abandoned their couch if they leave it out on the curb by the normal trash pick-up site).

-Nate
 
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Harvey Wasserman
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I'm guessing that if a copyright is apparently abandoned, and another company decided to re-publish the game, without permission from, or compensation to the copyright owner, a lawsuit could follow, and "abandonment" would not be an issue.

Edits: Copyrights are presently in effect for the life of the author, plus 70 years. (Thank you for the correction, Nate.) The point being that even death does not constitute abandonment.
 
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Jeremiah Lee
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lightnng wrote:
Nate, your opinion is certainly legally solid, but I do believe there is an issue that makes this largely irrelevant. Essentially, for any sort of lawsuit arising from something like copyright to be brought, one has to show damages.

Not actually true. Section 501 of the Copyright Act does not require a showing of damages, only that infringment has occurred. In order to recover, a copyright owner may show damages and recover that amount, or, under § 504(c), take statutory damages. Unfortunately for anyone who might want to test the Copyright Act, the statutory damages may be $150,000 per infringement.

For the code, so you can read this stuff for yourself, look here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sup_01_1...
 
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Lacombe
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texasjdl wrote:
Not actually true.


I didn't think that sounded right, but damages was never a hot topic of my copyright study.

Quote:
For the code, so you can read this stuff for yourself, look here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sup_01_1...


You can also go to www.copyright.gov, among the more useful and navigable of all government websites.
 
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CrocWrestler wrote:
Edit: Copyrights are presently in effect for the life of the copyright owner, plus 50 years.


Life + 70.
 
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Hi Nate !

At long last someone who has more than personal feelings about copyright, but an educated opinion of the (US) legalese. Thanks a lot for the insights !

It´s one of the first posts I see which is not about how things should be followed by an argument based on personal ethics and/or religion and/or practice...
 
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I've posted some translations on my web site and I've tried to secure myself by asking the companies if it's okay. The bigger ones haven't replied, the smaller ones have all said it's fine. So perhaps asking the company would be a good idea?
 
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NateStraight wrote:
Life + 70.

Life + Whatever keeps Disney's "Steamboat Willie" in copyright, after their lobbyists have had a chat with the malleable politicans on Capitol Hill. cry
 
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Lacombe
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msaari wrote:
I've posted some translations on my web site and I've tried to secure myself by asking the companies if it's okay. The bigger ones haven't replied, the smaller ones have all said it's fine. So perhaps asking the company would be a good idea?


Translations are one of the most important forms that a derivative work can take (especially in literature), so you are certainly on the right track (legally speaking) to ask the company before posting yours.
 
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NateStraight wrote:
fuzzyfife wrote:
Since this discussion seems to have a fair number of legal advice in it I have a question of a similar vain. If you cannot download a picture of a game from another site because of some kind of infringement of copyright law why is it legal for this site to allow you to take your own picture of the game and send it in. Why doesn't the game company have copyrights regarding the box and taking a picture of it and by the same token why does someone else ( A game selling company who simply takes a picture of the game to sell it) now have copyright protection regarding a PICTURE OF A COPYRIGHTED GAME!




Whether or not the inclusion of copyrighted material (box art, etc) within the content of the photograph itself is a problem is another issue, and a messier one.


Nate The last part of your answer both intrigues and confuses me. There has been much to do about what I consider nothing regarding copyright protection of some pictures of games that appear somewhere else. Many people have commented on that, as if loading a picture of a copyrighted game from some other site means anything. BUT when I ask what I think is a much more relevant question and that is WHAT RIGHT DO I or anyone else have to take a picture of a copyrighted game and included it here on BGG your answer was simply. Whether or not the inclusion of copyrighted material (box art, etc) within the content of the photograph itself is a problem is another issue, and a messier one.

Why is it a messier one? The downloaded pictures of the game are actually the copyright infringement aren't they? I will never understand how I can take a picture of a game and then I have copyright rights while the company who produces the game doesn't.

In the long run I think that this is all too much! We are talking about taking a picture of a game, not getting any value from it, not making a profit, we are not enhancing it, or deriving anything from it. We are simply looking at it!!!

Me thinks that WE NEED TO CHANGE THE COPYRIGHT LAWS. The change in the world caused by INTERNET ACCESS demands it.
 
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Chris
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Nekura wrote:
To me, taking a PDF freely distributed on a company's web site and re-hosting it is prefectly legit.


Some companies like to be the only host of a file so that people have to go to their site in order to download it. They'd rather you link to their page, not link to their file, not host the file independently of them.
 
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Richard Crawshaw
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Firstly I'd just like to remind people that not all countries have the same copyright laws. Indeed some countries have no law regarding copyright at all! I'm not an expert on the whole matter, though I do know some stuff, and I'm writing from memory, rather than looking things up, but I think countries like Russia, China don't have copyright laws; plus some other smaller Asian countries.


Regarding the matter of taking a picture of a game box. Assuming that the artwork on the box is only a part of the picture, for example the box is shown on a table next to a game in progress. Under UK law (and I see no reason why US law would be significantly different, though it might be) then the copyright holder of the game artwork has a say in the use of the photograph, but the owner of the copyright of the photograph is the person who took it.

It really depends on how much of the picture the artwork of the box takes up. If the box is only a very small part of the picture then the copyright holder of the game artwork might well not have much say at all.

On the other hand if the picture is of the box artwork and nothing else then there probably is a full blown copyright infringement.


However, whether anything is every going to be made of these "infringements" is another matter. It could well be argued that by showing artwork from a game is actually promoting the game and thus increasing sales of the game. The only real way of knowing is by having the matter resolved in court!

Richard
 
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