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  Plagiarism in games (Tetris and so on)  (Read 3820 times)
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Offline miga
« Posted 2011-05-22 03:50:40 »

Hello,

I have been working on my Tetris applet. I would like to make it part of contents on my website. I have read that it is forbidden to call this game with words containing "tris". I also see some other websites having Tetris free to play. Is it illegal if I upload my Tetris? Would it cause me any trouble? I wanted to add an arrange to my Tetris with characters from an Anime.

My another concern is parody. If I make a game using characters from Anime, would this give me trouble? I do understand that it depends on the copyright rule they have, but I would like to ask if anyone has anything to share regarding this. Also, what if I make a game with similar concepts/rules, but different characters, stages, and so on.

Thanks in advance.

Miga's Hobby Programming - http://www.migapro.com
Offline philfrei
« Reply #1 - Posted 2011-05-22 04:19:08 »

Whatever you do, stay far far away from Disney content.

"It's after the end of the world! Don't you know that yet?"
Offline ReBirth
« Reply #2 - Posted 2011-05-22 05:00:59 »

The tetris part is not porblem I think. I see everyone can make clone of tetris, space invader, asteroid and so on. So adapting their gameplay is normal. But your anime char can be. You better come with your own graphic designs.

On other way, as the same fan of anime, I can suggest you if you still want to go with that characters, label your game with "Fan Made" and make it free without ads inside. I see some games on this kind (parody) manage to survive with that way. I remember I played tetris haruhi ver Cheesy

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Offline pjt33
« Reply #3 - Posted 2011-05-22 07:00:25 »

I have read that it is forbidden to call this game with words containing "tris". I also see some other websites having Tetris free to play. Is it illegal if I upload my Tetris? Would it cause me any trouble?
A tetromino-based game whose name includes "tetr" or "tris" and which becomes highly visible (i.e. successful) is likely to be sued for trademark infringement. It is safer to call it something completely different.
Offline Christopher
« Reply #4 - Posted 2011-05-22 10:42:32 »

Whatever you do, stay far far away from Disney content.

Bahaha!

I did a study on Disney in my copyright laws subject at university. Evil, evil company. The lengths they are willing to go to, to prevent Mickey from becoming public property is inconceivable. It is because of them that copyright is seen as a weapon in most peoples eyes and not a method to protect intellectual property. Best of all is that all their stories have been stolen from childrens bed time stories from around the world and now they are like f*$k you all we own this now.

Sorry to deter from the subject matter, I just couldnt resist an anti Disney rant.

To answer your copyright question however, yes in a court of law you could be held accountable for your Tetris clone, especially if you call it "Tetris". The thing to keep in mind is that you are pretty much guaranteed safety until the point where your clone starts making some serious $$$. At which point the fine creators of Tetris will come knocking on your door for their share.

Offline zlandorf
« Reply #5 - Posted 2011-05-22 13:02:11 »

Didn't the creator get his work stolen by the USSR ? And since the USSR is dead, who owns the tetris trademark/copyright (whats the difference between the two?) ?

edit : forgot it's not URSS in English but USSR, sry
Offline pjt33
« Reply #6 - Posted 2011-05-22 16:56:44 »

The Tetris Company issues legal threats - whether they have any real basis or not is irrelevant if you don't have money to pay lawyers.

Trademark is about protecting names and logos - in essence, protecting the brand. Copyright is about protecting artwork and code - the product.
Offline Nate

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« Reply #7 - Posted 2011-05-22 21:17:48 »

First, keep in mind that web forums are the absolute best source of legal advice. Smiley

To complete what pjt33 has said, patents are about protecting the ideas.

For example, Hasbro has a patent on the rules of the Magic: The Gathering card game. You cannot create a game using Magic's rules until 2015, when the patent expires. After that, you can use the rules of Magic for your own game, but you can't use any of the card text or art, as that is covered by a copyright. You'll have to wait 70 years to use their copyrighted material. And of course, you can't use the Magic name or logo, ever.

You can copy the rules/gameplay of any game, as long as it is not patented. You can search here:
http://www.google.com/patents
There is no patent on Tetris (or Asteroids, etc), so go ahead and copy its gameplay. You cannot use the art from any Tetris game, as it is copyrighted. You cannot use the name Tetris, as this is a trademark. Using the suffix "tris" is questionable. You might be able to get away with it. The argument would probably be that SuperCooltris is too similar to Tetris and takes away market share from the establish brand by confusing consumers.

Offline miga
« Reply #8 - Posted 2011-05-23 04:56:21 »

ReBirth
Including the word, "Fan-Made" sounds good. However, I do plan to have ads on my website(adsense and amazon affiliate). I could just exclude the ads on the page with Tetris game.

philfrei, Christopher
Thanks for interesting information. I will definitely stay away from Disney Grin

pjt33, Nate
I had never thought about patent. Thanks a lot for your advise and clear explanation. Basically as far as Tetris, I can make a game with same rule as Tetris and have on my website, but I have to name it something that doesn't associate with "Tetris" at all. Also no copied graphics from Tetris. I have a question to you guys. What would you guys say if I make a Tetris(of course using different name) for example, with a character from Japanese anime?(Using graphics and voice of this character) According to what Nate explained, many cases would be forbidden. However, I see a lot of people including anime characters into their own game. Though I have also seen people avoiding sharing the game and just having a video to show what he made. I plan to have ads which I can still take off from the specific page containing this game. I'm pretty sure it would be illegal since I could make some money from using this anime's character. Would there be anyway to have a game like this on my website for people to play? I would like to at least upload a video of the gameplay.

Thanks guys!!

Miga's Hobby Programming - http://www.migapro.com
Offline Nate

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« Reply #9 - Posted 2011-05-23 05:13:36 »

What would you guys say if I make a Tetris(of course using different name) for example, with a character from Japanese anime?(Using graphics and voice of this character) ...snip... Would there be anyway to have a game like this on my website for people to play? I would like to at least upload a video of the gameplay.
You need a license to use the anime content legally, because it is copyrighted. Create your own content if you want be legal.

Note that the DCMA requires someone you are infringing to issue you a takedown notice before suing you. Go ahead and copy whatever you want, but take it down if you receive a notice.

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Offline biro
« Reply #10 - Posted 2011-05-23 08:16:09 »

Hello,
Why not ask the rightsholder, if it's alright for him to use a few graphics in your game?
Because it's a kind of advertise I don't see why he should say no, at least not if it's a good and fun game.

biro
Offline DerpMan
« Reply #11 - Posted 2011-05-23 08:51:41 »

The Tetris Company sued Apple last year over their iPhone Tetris app, and did the same with the Android store not too long ago.

That being said, I think if you make it clear you're not making money with it / made it just for fun you should be fine, as long as it doesn't get to be super-popular and 100 000 people start playing it.

And either way, they're more likely to send you a cease-and-desist notice first rather than suing right away.

(By the way, yes, the USSR "stole" the rights to Tetris, but after the end of the Soviet Union the Tetris Company was founded - by the actual inventor of Tetris, I think.)
Offline DerpMan
« Reply #12 - Posted 2011-05-23 08:53:53 »

...
There is no patent on Tetris (or Asteroids, etc), so go ahead and copy its gameplay. You cannot use the art from any Tetris game, as it is copyrighted. You cannot use the name Tetris, as this is a trademark. Using the suffix "tris" is questionable...

Actually, I remember reading they trademarked several aspects of the gameplay, such as "puzzle using blocks made up of four squares falling down".
Offline Nate

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Medals: 149
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« Reply #13 - Posted 2011-05-23 09:13:37 »

And either way, they're more likely to send you a cease-and-desist notice first rather than suing right away.
The nice part about the DCMA is they must send you a take down notice before suing you. This is what enables YouTube to not get sued over the videos people upload.

Actually, I remember reading they trademarked several aspects of the gameplay, such as "puzzle using blocks made up of four squares falling down".
Gameplay (game rules) cannot be trademarked. They can only be patented. Patents last 20 years. Tetris came out in 1986. Tetris gameplay is not patented and can be copied.

Offline DerpMan
« Reply #14 - Posted 2011-05-23 09:43:15 »

Gameplay (game rules) cannot be trademarked. They can only be patented. Patents last 20 years. Tetris came out in 1986. Tetris gameplay is not patented and can be copied.

I'm not sure about that. I think they re-issued the patents when the Tetris Company was founded. (In '96 I think?)
Offline DerpMan
« Reply #15 - Posted 2011-05-23 09:44:51 »

Actually this article explains it better than I could. :p

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=22815
Offline Nate

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« Reply #16 - Posted 2011-05-23 11:47:43 »

There they talk about something called "trade dress", which I'm not familiar with. Wikipedia says it is like a trademark. If the overall style of your game is so similar to an established brand that it could confuse consumers, you may be infringing. There is a vague line (like most software legal stuff) between the game rules/idea (which is patentable) and the overall game look/feel (which is apparently trade dress). For a game as simple as Tetris, these two things seem to nearly be the same. If you fought them properly, you might win.

Look at what happened with Scrabble. There are many mobile phone games that are exactly like Scrabble, except they can't use the same bonus square configuration on the game board. If Tetris could win their trade dress against Blockles, it certainly seems like Scrabble could win against the mobile apps. Scrabble is owned by Hasbro, which is a ginormous company, so I imagine if they thought they could win, they would try.

Funny thing about Scrabble, it is owned by Hasbro in the US and Canada, and Mattel everywhere else in the world. So for online gaming, US and Canada players can't play with the rest of the world. This gives the knock offs that just use a modified game board a big advantage over the real deal, as anyone in the world can use their app.

Offline pjt33
« Reply #17 - Posted 2011-05-23 12:18:51 »

There they talk about something called "trade dress", which I'm not familiar with. Wikipedia says it is like a trademark. If the overall style of your game is so similar to an established brand that it could confuse consumers, you may be infringing. There is a vague line (like most software legal stuff) between the game rules/idea (which is patentable) and the overall game look/feel (which is apparently trade dress). For a game as simple as Tetris, these two things seem to nearly be the same. If you fought them properly, you might win.
Although I suspect that more people have played Tetris clones than the "real thing", so if you defend it properly you can probably get the "trade dress" declared non-distinctive. (Also, as someone already commented on the Gamasutra article, half the things they claim as their "trade dress" are functional).
Offline tberthel
« Reply #18 - Posted 2011-05-23 20:33:51 »

Whatever you do, stay far far away from Disney content.

Bahaha!

I did a study on Disney in my copyright laws subject at university. Evil, evil company. The lengths they are willing to go to, to prevent Mickey from becoming public property is inconceivable. It is because of them that copyright is seen as a weapon in most peoples eyes and not a method to protect intellectual property. Best of all is that all their stories have been stolen from childrens bed time stories from around the world and now they are like f*$k you all we own this now.

Sorry to deter from the subject matter, I just couldnt resist an anti Disney rant.

To answer your copyright question however, yes in a court of law you could be held accountable for your Tetris clone, especially if you call it "Tetris". The thing to keep in mind is that you are pretty much guaranteed safety until the point where your clone starts making some serious $$$. At which point the fine creators of Tetris will come knocking on your door for their share.


In China, they use lots of Disney IP without license or permission.  China seems to love mickey copies.

Offline Nate

JGO Kernel


Medals: 149
Projects: 4
Exp: 14 years


Esoteric Software


« Reply #19 - Posted 2011-05-23 22:21:41 »

In China, they use lots of Disney IP without license or permission.  China seems to love mickey copies.
Maybe that will change (but probably not), as they have started building a Disneyland in Beijing. I work at Disney. Smiley

Offline ra4king

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I'm the King!


« Reply #20 - Posted 2011-05-24 02:53:28 »

In China, they use lots of Disney IP without license or permission.  China seems to love mickey copies.
Maybe that will change (but probably not), as they have started building a Disneyland in Beijing. I work at Disney. Smiley
No way...you work at Disney? Or am I just so stoopid that I missed the sarcasm? Tongue

Offline OverKill

Junior Duke




Java games rock!


« Reply #21 - Posted 2011-05-24 07:41:01 »

@China:
Lol, like anyone on this planet has the balls to piss off China. China just does not care and will do what it want's.

@OP:
Perhaps you can just put a new spin on the original game and call it 'WTF, there are strange [blocks] falling from the sky!'
Possibly replace the word [blocks] with whatever design you have.
Offline Sinuath

Junior Duke


Medals: 2



« Reply #22 - Posted 2011-05-24 09:41:26 »

i've always kind of wanted to make a rogue-like using d&d dice rolls and character sheets. would that be possible? running from the 3.5 rules?  just curious for future reference, it seems cooler then making monsters do like 5 damage or something. Everything will kind of be "pre-balanced" that way.

Hey [you][/you], you should totally check out my boring Site ~ http://davediel.com/chris
Offline aazimon
« Reply #23 - Posted 2011-05-24 18:20:53 »

For using D&D 3.5 material read over the general license they have for the D20 system. You probably know about other games systems that are based on the D20 system. Your game would fall in that area, but read over the license. Some material is propriatary to D&D such as Tenser and other characters.
  The dice styles are not owned by D&D (Wizards of the Coast), so you can use them in your game freely.
  Disney isn't the only company that defense it's characters. Warner Brothers does with the Looney Toon characters. Years ago, someone submited characters to Dragon Magazine using the Looney Toons. The writer was sued for it.
Offline Sinuath

Junior Duke


Medals: 2



« Reply #24 - Posted 2011-05-24 20:37:31 »

Thx, that wouldn't really be a problem then. i don't have any interest in the content.  Just the game mechanics.

Maybe i'll look up how to make a d20 game, they might idiot proof it for me. I know i should just read the legal documentation, but i have trouble finding this stuff and it all looks like gibberish to me. Besides the money i have a hard time seeing why anyone wants to go into the legal profession.

Hey [you][/you], you should totally check out my boring Site ~ http://davediel.com/chris
Offline miga
« Reply #25 - Posted 2011-05-27 01:20:23 »

Very interesting. I guess I will just name it differently and put it on my website. As soon as I get warning, I will make sure I remove it. Thank you guys for comments.

Just one more thing... How would they give you the warning? I'm guessing they will see the name/info registered with the website hosting and email? Or might they send me a letter through mail?

Miga's Hobby Programming - http://www.migapro.com
Offline ra4king

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Medals: 350
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I'm the King!


« Reply #26 - Posted 2011-05-27 02:44:46 »

They'll probably look for a "Contact me!" button somewhere on your website.

Offline ReBirth
« Reply #27 - Posted 2011-05-27 02:53:16 »

They'll probably look for a "Contact me!" button somewhere on your website.
so don't put it Wink

Offline ra4king

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Medals: 350
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I'm the King!


« Reply #28 - Posted 2011-05-27 03:15:17 »

They'll probably look for a "Contact me!" button somewhere on your website.
so don't put it Wink
That's what I do on my website too Wink

Offline Nate

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« Reply #29 - Posted 2011-05-27 04:50:25 »

http://brainz.org/dmca-takedown-101/
Seems if you can't be contacted, they will serve the take down notice to the company providing your hosting. If they want you to take it down, it is best to take it down if you are infringing. If your host takes no action and you leave it up, I assume they have gotten past the DCMA and you can be sued.

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