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  Creating versions of classic arcade games  (Read 4844 times)
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Offline the2bears

Senior Devvie

Projects: 2

Little Bear: Code Fu!

« Posted 2003-01-03 17:27:56 »

I was thinking about this the other day, and was wondering about the various legal implications.  So, instead of asking a lawyer I'm asking here... it could be worse, I could be asking on Slashdot;)

Anyway, here goes:  There are many, many versions of Pacman around.  Some use the exact same maze, the look of the characters etc.  I remember when Donkey Kong was at the height of its popularity every computer had a "Donkey King" or some other such copy.

Does anyone know, or at least have an opinion regarding this?  Say I wished to make J2ME games - versions of classics with different names but obviously made to play as close to the original as possible in the limited scope of the device.  And say I wanted to sell these games...



the2bears - the indie shmup blog
Offline Pyros

Senior Newbie

Let's make Java games rock !

« Reply #1 - Posted 2003-01-03 18:54:12 »

Depends. I don't remember or even know exactly (I'm no lawyer) but the copyright laws have a time limit of some years, maybe 15, 20 or whatever. If the owner of the copyright renews his rights to the product, he can keep them. But if he doesn't do that (forgets, has no interest, he doesn't exist anymore...) then it becomes public domain. This is one of the reasons why everybody watches black'n'white movies in movies. If someone in a new movie was watching the new Spiderman movie and even a couple of seconds was seen in a tv-set on the background or something, they'd have to pay huge amounts of copyright payments. But they hunt some ages old black'n'white films which have expired copyrights and show the main characters watching them for free.

The surefire way is to get a written permission from the original copyright owner.

Another way is just to plagiarize, i.e. make a similar game, a clone, but don't make an exact replica. Call it Blocketyblock instead of Tetris and have some of the gameplay altered and you'll be fine.
Offline the2bears

Senior Devvie

Projects: 2

Little Bear: Code Fu!

« Reply #2 - Posted 2003-01-03 19:29:37 »

I'm thinking of the plagiarizing you described, I mean creating a game "close" to the original.  I think you may be right, change some of the game features.

Sigh... I'm a programmer, not a creative game designer:)  On the other hand, I love the classics.


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Offline Pyros

Senior Newbie

Let's make Java games rock !

« Reply #3 - Posted 2003-01-03 20:11:09 »

Sigh... I'm a programmer, not a creative game designer:)  On the other hand, I love the classics.

I love them too.  Cool

Think of changing the names and places of the game, use your own graphics, imitate the gameplay. Then think "how would I make the classic even better?" and add/modify the game to enhance it. Then you'll catch two flies for one: 1) you created a retro-classic and 2) you made it better than the one you drew inspiration from.
Offline champaignj

Junior Newbie

Java games rock!

« Reply #4 - Posted 2003-01-09 03:08:24 »

An article I came across that addressed this issue (along with other interesting info) is at:

The relevant section is:


Something I need to mention is that when you make your Tetris game, you can't call it "Tetris". Tetris is a trademark of the Tetris Company who is owned by Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris. It is his exclusive right to use the name Tetris, and I believe they may have won a lawsuit saying that you cannot make a falling blocks game with the syllable "tris", as it is obviously playing off the popularity of the of the name Tetris.

However, this means nothing to you if you call your game "The Sky is Falling", or anything without a "tris" in it, as they do NOT own the gameplay, interface, or idea of falling blocks. If you hear anything differently from anyone, tell them you can't own ideas, and if you require further proof you can look up information on this subject at the USPTO ( ).

--- snip ---

I read elsewhere about Hasbro very aggressively defending the copyrights on a bunch of "vintage" games it bought up the rights to, so you probably don't want to mess with them...
Offline erikd

JGO Ninja

Medals: 16
Projects: 4
Exp: 14 years


« Reply #5 - Posted 2003-02-14 07:48:07 »

I don't remember or even know exactly (I'm no lawyer) but the copyright laws have a time limit of some years

IIRC, that is after the copyright holder dies, not just some years after it was created. There's no way to prove *when* something has been created and remember that you (as a creator) always have copyright even when you have not registered anything.
But then again, I'm no lawyer either and my memory is not too great   Tongue

Offline GergisKhan

Junior Devvie

"C8 H10 N4 O2"

« Reply #6 - Posted 2003-02-14 17:28:42 »

Not a lawyer myself, but due to work in music I know this law pretty well.  Here are the rules:

Works are automatically copyrighted, WITHOUT requiring registration, at the moment of creation.

For individuals (like an artist, or sculptor) the copyright is valid throughout his or her lifetime, and then for 75 years after his or her death.

For a corporation, the copyright is 95 years from the date of creation.

The proposed Sonny Bono amdendment (known as the "Mickey Mouse" law because of its protection of Disney's copyright) would extend these to 95 years and 120 years, respectively.

Note that registration just gives you a "stronger" claim to enforce your rights; it is not actually required to claim a copyright.  Registration of a copyright, by the way, serves in court as the "proof" of creation date.


"Go.  Teach them not to mess with us."
          -- Cao Cao, Dynasty Warriors 3
Offline oNyx

JGO Coder

Medals: 2

pixels! :x

« Reply #7 - Posted 2003-02-16 11:57:13 »

tetris is really a bad example Smiley

the mentioned article is from 06-28-99.

and tetris is already public domain.

弾幕 ☆ @mahonnaiseblog
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