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RISK on Google Maps Shut Down 312

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the making-my-stronghold-in-africa dept.
mrokkam writes "Hasbro owns the copyrights for the game of Risk, as the guy who wrote the google maps based Risk found out. This was featured on slashdot earlier. However, he does not seem too discouraged and asks people to submit ideas for other games using google maps that will not have such legal wrangles." One thing this reminded me of is how cool Risk is. My office is now in its 3rd round... Africa will be mine!
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RISK on Google Maps Shut Down

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  • One has to wonder (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:16PM (#14178456) Homepage
    how has Lux [sillysoft.com] escaped the wrath of hasbro?
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yartrebo (690383) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:18PM (#14178468)
    IANAL, but ...

    The copyright claim is probably a stretch. The title cannot be copyrighted, and merely formulating rules that are similar is not copyright infringement, though it is close enough for a lawsuit to stand on.

    However, in these types of instances, trademarks cast a very wide net because of the anti-dilution clauses that were added to trademark law a few decades back. Judges often interpret the clause extremely broadly. The anti-consumer aspects of trademarks get their teeth from this, whereas the aspects of trademarks needed for a well functionin market, namely that one entity cannot pass off goods are being made by another, was very well handled by the older trademark laws.
  • Variations (Score:3, Informative)

    by plopez (54068) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:18PM (#14178470) Journal
    There is a variation called 'space 2440' or something like that which won a court case against Hasbro IIRC.

    The map was different, the rules slightly as well. In addition to continents you had space and ocean colonies and more sophisticated pieces + rules. I found it more intersting than plain "Risk".

    The name "Risk" itself is a generic term and as such, from what I understand of copyright law, cannot be copyrighted.

    If he were to change the rules and call it 'Risk ' then he should be OK. Though Hasbro may win de facto if the game author doesn't have the resources or will to deal with lawyers.
  • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:39PM (#14178574) Homepage Journal

    Two words: derivative work.

    Three words: idea-expression dichotomy [wikipedia.org]. The rules of RISK, including the graph theoretic structure of the game board, make up a process, which is deliberately not subject to copyright (17 USC 102). If you express the same rules differently, then your work is not a copy and not a derivative.

  • Re:diplomacy (Score:2, Informative)

    by gfreeman (456642) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:44PM (#14178602)
    If you like risk, and have 4-5 hours to play, try diplomacy.

    There's everything you need to know about Diplomacy here [diplom.org], including how to join an online game, and how to improve your gameplay.
  • by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:44PM (#14178603) Homepage
    Upon a proper search of the USPTO database of Registered Trademarks, "Risk" for the board and computer game variants IS registered for Hasbro. However, there is no registration for the look/feel of the game pieces, etc. so that falls pretty clearly into the Copyright domain. Now, since the Web Risk[TM] game that used Google Maps to render the globe's details didn't really USE anything other than the game mechanics, doesn't specifically copy the verbiage from the game's rulesheet, and didn't appear to do anything else that might have infringed on Hasbro's "IP" rights, I reccomend that he consult a lawyer for certainty, strip out the Trademark Violation from the game, and tell Hasbro to go pound sand on the rest of it as it's not infringing nor is it a Trademark Violation at that point.
  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:35PM (#14178882) Homepage
    LOL. In fact, courts don't care how much new material there might be in an infringing work, they only care about the part that is infringing, even if it were only one hundreth of a percent of the new work. Adding lots of stuff is irrelevant; taking lots of stuff is where you get in trouble.
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:36PM (#14178890) Journal
    Ther is nothing in Title 17 that allows for copyrighting game rules.

    You can't copyright the the actual rules of a game, only the documents you use to express those rules. IOW, you can copyright the form in which you've written them up, but that's it. Anyone is free to implement the same rules, using different text.

    You can TRADEMARK a board design and the actual game pieces you make, but that's it. Again, anyone else is free to implement their version, using a different design and game pieces. I seriously doubt that Hasbro's version of Risk has an actual map of the world underneath (I have both the board and computer versions, and the world they show is NOT the real world,or even a decent representation of it).

    In other words, Hasbro needs to to realize that the internet gives everyone the power to search here [cornell.edu] and get the facts.

    If you'd rather read a summary about game law, direct from the government, go here [copyright.gov] instead.

    The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it.

    Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

    Some material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game, or the pictorial matter appearing on the gameboard or container, may be registrable.

    In order to register the copyrightable portions of a game, you must send the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-6000, the following elements in the same envelope or package:

    So Hasbro can go fuck themselves. The guy should sue, as this was an obvious attempt at intimidation. They do NOT own the exclusive rights to RISK-style board games.
  • copyright on rules (Score:2, Informative)

    by pruss (246395) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:42PM (#14178924) Homepage
    IANAL. But here's what I found by a quick googling:

    "Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

    "Some material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game, or the pictorial matter appearing on the gameboard or container, may be registrable." - The U.S. Copyright Office (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html [copyright.gov])

    Basically, from the copyright point of view, the guy would have been OK unless he copied the rules verbatim (or maybe close to verbatim) or he copied other parts of the game graphics.

    By the way, I wonder if it is possible to sue people for providing false or misleading legal information when they ought to have known better? I am not saying Hasbro is guilty here--that depends on whether the rules were copied verbatim. Another example of the provision of false information are the warnings on DVDs saying that ALL copying is prohibited by law, which is simply false, since there is NO reasonable interpretation (though IANAL) of copyright law under which there is no such thing as fair use. For instance, it seems clearly legal to take a family photograph, for non-commercial purposes, with a TV playing the movie in the background (incidental copying, I think it's called). I wonder if one could get a class action lawsuit by people who were defrauded through the signage.
  • by maxume (22995) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:00PM (#14179019)
    The name "Risk" itself is a generic term and as such, from what I understand of copyright law, cannot be copyrighted. If he were to change the rules and call it 'Risk ' then he should be OK. Though Hasbro may win de facto if the game author doesn't have the resources or will to deal with lawyers.

    The name "Risk" is trademarked. This gives hasbro the exclusive rights to market a game with the name "Risk". This means that any substantially similar product (probably any game-like product at all fits the definition of 'substantially similar) cannot use the name "Risk" without the permission of hasbro.

  • Re:Copyrights (Score:3, Informative)

    by bigpat (158134) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:04PM (#14179043)
    I don't think anyone could argue against hasbro's use of the trademark. He just can't call it risk. Although, just doing a simple trademark search comes up with thousands of other trademarks that incorporate the word "risk", so hasbro's trademark would be very limited in scope.

    Really if the game is fun and well done, then it should stand on its own without needing to infringe on the trademark. And the rules need only be rewritten, if in fact they were taken word for word from the original. It might be good to throw in some variations just for fun.

  • Re:Another game (Score:4, Informative)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @04:39PM (#14179811) Journal
    You can't copyright a game. Neither the name, nor the rules. Only the unique graphics and pieces.

    Here's what the US Copyright office has to say about it - and they should know http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html [copyright.gov]

    he idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it.

    Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

    Some material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game, or the pictorial matter appearing on the gameboard or container, may be registrable.

    So make your Risk game, your Camen Sandiego game, yur Sim City game - you can even use the same name. All these attempted smack-downs by lawyers who should know better make me sick. No wonder Shakespeare said "first we kill all the lawyers."

  • Re:Another game (Score:4, Informative)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @05:32PM (#14180174) Journal
    http://www.gcglaw.com/resources/tech/windows.html [gcglaw.com]
    The Ninth Circuit's dismissal of the appeal means that Microsoft will not be able to argue at trial that consumers today recognize "Windows" to be a valid brand of operating system proprietary to Microsoft.

    The litigation over the Windows trademark highlights a distinction between valid trademarks that become generic over time -- "escalator" for moving stairs is a frequently-cited example -- and words or phrases that were generic from the moment of their adoption by the purported trademark owner -- for example, "raisin bran" for breakfast cereal made from raisins and bran.

    Risk was in the english a LONG time before Hasbro stuck it on a game. Anyone may use it in conjuction with a game, same as anyone may make a raisin bran cereal. and call it raisin bram. Kelloggs Raisin Bran vs Post Raisin Bran. Hasbro Risk vs Your Risk.

    Trademarks are subject to dilution. Hasbro isn't in connection with a game company. That's their business name. Risk is - its not their name, its the name of a product, and as such, enjoys a LOT less protection. The Reg had an interesting article on how trademarks get diluted. In this case, Risk isn't even a trademarkable word - its a generic english term. Same with Windows. Remember how Microsoft backed down and paid Lindows $20 million to go away when the issue looked like it was going to go before a judge?

    http://www.gigalaw.com/articles/2002-all/isenberg- 2002-04-all.html [gigalaw.com]

    The current dispute, which Microsoft brought against Lindows.com, already has backfired against the software giant. In March, a federal district judge in Seattle denied Microsoft's request for a preliminary injunction preventing Lindows.com from using its trademark, which Microsoft said violated its own rights to the Windows trademark. In doing so, the judge said the case raised "serious questions" about the validity of the Windows trademark.

    Here's why: An elementary principle of trademark law says that generic terms cannot be protected. So, for example, no company could obtain trademark rights to the word "computer" to describe what we all know as a computer. As the judge in the ongoing Lindows case explained: "when a trademark's primary significance is to describe the type of product rather than the producer or source, the mark is a generic term." Generic terms can be used by anyone.

    Here's another way of looking at it: If you can't think of any other term to describe a product, that term probably is generic. So, ask yourself this question: What term could the maker of a windows-based user interface (such as Lindows.com) use, other than "windows," to describe its product? If you can't think of one, then windows just might be generic.

    As a result, if "Windows" is generic for graphical user interfaces, then Microsoft cannot prevent anyone else from using that mark -- or a similar mark, such as "Lindows."

    Hasbro better not roll the dice on this one - the defenders dies are all 6s to their snake-eyes

  • TEG (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tycho (11893) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @08:55PM (#14181250)
    Personally, I like TEG better than Risk anyway. I think that TEG is better because it has some small tweaks that make the rules more balanced rules than Risk. I also like how the default world map is divided and connected in TEG as compared to how the map is divided and connected in Risk. Best of all a free client and server for TEG is available at http://teg.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
  • Re:Trademark (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:17PM (#14182037) Journal
    The do NOT own a valid trademark to the name "Risk" - only to "Hasbro Risk". You can't trademark an existing term, only terms you either created specifically for your product ("For example - "Triominoes" would stand on its own, because it was coined specifically for a game), or a generic term in use with a unique identifier, such as "Hasbro Risk"

    Same thing with car companies - Pontiac didn't come up with the term "GTO" - they took it from the Ferarri GTO - but they were allowed to because "Pontiac GTO" is not the same, even though they both refer to cars.

    Same thing with Raisin Bran. Kelloggs doesn't own the trademark to it - which is why you see "Post Rasin Bran" and "Kelloggs Raisin Bran". You can't claim trademark to a pre-existing term all by itself.

    Look at the smackdown Microsoft got for trying to claim that "Windows", by itself, was their exclusive trademark. Cost them $20 million to find out that they didn't want to go there.

    They have no more right to the term "RisK" by itself as a board game name than anyone else.

    BTW - dig up a copy of Risk - I've got versions from 2003 and last yer. The 2003 one only mentions "Hasbro" and "Parker Brothers" as trademarks. This is a case of someone trying to expand their trademark pool. It's bogus.

    On a side note, that they have now stipulated in a legal notice that "Hasbro Risk" isn't sufficient to differentiate their product in the consumers mind, that they need to be able to expand their title claims to all uses of "Risk" in conjunction with a board game, indicates that the term Risk in conjunction with territorial conquest board games has in fact become generic - a stipulation that I am quite happy to accept.

  • Re:Copyrights (Score:3, Informative)

    by The One and Only (691315) <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Monday December 05, 2005 @12:32AM (#14182463) Homepage
    You can not copyright the rules to a game.

    Sure you can, just like you can copyright any other passage of text. It's just that the copyright only applies to your specific text and not to the meaning of the text.
  • by damsa (840364) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:01AM (#14183098)
    It's not copyright, it is trademark law. They don't want Risk to become a generic name for a world domination game. That way when you buy a Risk game you know what kind of rules it comes with. The Yo Yo used to be a trademarked term as well.

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