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   Author  Topic: Games and Copyright  (Read 799 times)
A Gamer
Games and Copyright
« on: Apr 2nd, 2004, 3:28pm »
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I have some questions regarding games and copyright. I'm using Risk as an example, since most people know how to play it, but my questions are actually about a different game, one run by a company that has been known to be legally aggressive (at least with Cease and Desists). Thus I want to be careful to follow the law.
1) I have read that game mechanics (roll three 6 sided dice and compare your highest two with their two sided dice (Risk), etc.) cannot be copyrighted. But -- I cannot find a case where this was ruled. Does anyone have a reference for this? Or does it just fall under the category of things that cannot be copyrighted by its very nature? Could I make a game that had the same combat mechanics as Risk, as long as the game is not called Risk, etc.?
2) Are "house rules"/edits considered a derivative work, even if they include nothing from the original rules? I.e., you publish a document which says, "In this variant, you roll four 6 sided dice instead of 3" or "Ignore the optional rule on page 10 of the rules book" or "Of the three optional rules for Risk, use variant #2?"
3) Lets say I'm forming an association that will play Risk all over the country. Can they stop that? They might be interested in stopping it due to it competing with an official Risk organization.
4) Suppose that in order to play Risk, one needs a standardizing document detailing which of the optional rules will be used. For example, the game is unplayable without a document saying "We will be using variant #2 on page 10 of the rules document." Does that afffect if such a document can be published or not?
5) What rights in these regards do I have as a person who has purchased the game? In other words, I bought Risk, as did two hundred people in my club all over the country. If the company can stop me from publishing house rules, they have effectively stopped me from getting normal and expected usage out of something I purchased from them. Doesn't contract law apply to this?
6) Using trademarks in a document (for example, "Our club will play Risk(tm), Castle Risk(tm), and Lord of the Rings Risk (tm)) is legal, since simply referencing trademarks is protected, correct?
A. Gamer.
IP Logged
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Posts: 3472
Re: Games and Copyright
« Reply #1 on: Apr 2nd, 2004, 11:34pm »
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I think the concept that game mechanics cannot be copyrighted comes form the following statutory provision
17 USC 102(b)
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work
I interpret the above to mean that while you may not be able to copy the expression outlining how the game is played, the underlying procedure is not copyrighted and can be expressed using different expression without infringing a copyright.  
Question 2 is very interesting.  I'm not prepared to take a stab at it.  What I will suggest is that some courts have interpreted derivative work very broadly and I am not sure of the outcome.   Maybe some else has an opinion.
It is important that you do not use the trademark in a way that implies an association or sponsor ship with the mark owner is such a relationship does not exist.  I cannot tell from your hypotheticals if you will be creating such confusion.
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M. Arthur Auslander
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Posts: 541
Re: Games and Copyright
« Reply #2 on: Apr 3rd, 2004, 5:36am »
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MONOPOLY still lives. It has spawned many other games. I think the original copyright has expired. The trademark lives on.
Whether a game is protected by copyright and or patent, the odds are that non infringing variants can be sucessful. That is where the trademark comes in and the trademark can live for ever.
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M. Arthur Auslander
Auslander & Thomas-Intellectual Property Law
3008 Johnson Ave., New York, NY 10463
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