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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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  • by mridley (571519) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:41AM (#14178355) Homepage
    I never saw the original game web site, so I'm not sure exactly what it looked like. But as long as you don't use the name RISK and you don't copy, word for word, their rules out of the physical cardboard box that the game comes in (ie. don't infringe their copyright), then I don't see why you couldn't put this back online.

    After all, what was that game - Tradewars? - that was exactly like RISK but I don't think anyone ever made an issue out of it.

    -m

  • Great idea! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StringBlade (557322) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:59AM (#14178401) Journal
    We'll call it "Imperil" and it'll take place on Pangea with toops of dinosaurs and other pre-historic species of animals trying to take over the world before it breaks apart.
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by codegen (103601) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:12PM (#14178443) Journal
    If the game looks similar and plays the same, but does not have its rules phrased the same as the original game, is this a violation of copyright? I'm genuinely curious

    Two words:
    derivative work.

    Changing the name and changing the rules might be enough.I haven't seen the online version. But if you change the way results are calculated (instead of rolls of 6 sided dice) and change the resupply algorithm, it might be sufficient

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:22PM (#14178501) Homepage
    ...one of Trademarks. While I'm not a lawyer, I am rather familiar with the various "IP" laws, being an inventor and an author of SF. Since the online Risk game used the name, the guy who wrote the Google Maps version had a problem with that part specifically- and Hasbro DID have a right to ask him to stop calling it that. The other claims of the elements of Risk are bogus since these are NOT really trademarkable, only Copyrightable. Since Copyright only covers the SPECIFIC implementation of an idea, they really didn't have a leg to stand on as this was a game, played on the Web that used Google Maps to render portions of the screens- NOT a board game like Risk is. The MAIN reason why the guy pulled it was one of not having the funds to put up a defense against the rest of the complaints Hasbro fobbed off on him. And, that's the biggest complaint I've got about how the "IP" laws are worded- the rich are the only ones that can actually use it or defend against spurious uses thereof. If you're a rights holder, you only have as much protection for your "IP" as you have cash to burn defending your rights. If you're not and aren't really infringing on things, you only have as much defense against unreasonable claims as you've got cash to burn defending your rights.
  • If Hasbro was smart they'd create a marketing division just for this guy's work and contact him about setting up a new element to the game with licensing.

    But no.. They can't completely control this type of endeavor anymore so it's all or nothing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:42PM (#14178589)
    yup, they tried a long time ago to stop a bunch of us that were publishing alternative rules to Risk. I.E. you hat to own risk and then add in our rules that were 100% origional to enhance the game. They sent letters we flipped them the bird by publishing all of the rules and giving out thousands upon thousands of copies at College campuses.

    today I can find many of our add-on rules modified slightly and on the internet (mutually assured destruction Risk with nukes, and Alien attack Risk with having the green be aliens that are trying to take over the world... required 2 sets of risk pieces to give the aliens overwhelming forces, and the only way to win was to contain the alien beachhead from the very beginning.)

    Their lawyers told me and the around 15 scattered friends around the globe that we were not to distribute the rules and we were to destroy them. WE did the opposite, instead of selling the 5 photocopied sheets for $0.50US we gave them to everyone everywhere.

    The only answer is to do what they do not expect and go against their demands, that is the only way to deal with the scum that are lawyers.
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:12PM (#14178740)
    May I be the first to say, "WHOOSH!".
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilFrog (559066) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:15PM (#14178763)
    Here's the trick:

    You can not copyright the rules to a game.

    You can copyright the expression of the game— the artwork and the way the manual is written.

    You can trademark the name of the game.

    And most importantly you can patent a unique mechanic of a game.

    I'm 99.9% certain the Hasbro does not own a patent on any of the mechanics used in Risk. They do however own the copyright on the board artwork and the wording of the rules, as well as a trademark on the name "Risk".

    All you need to do in order to be legit in this case is to stop calling it "Risk".
  • Re:First Question! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:50PM (#14178968)
    Remember this next time Taco says "but I'm too busy to code a dupe checker!" or other excuse.
  • by saskboy (600063) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:16PM (#14179117) Homepage Journal
    "I think this is an example of copyrights doing a good thing for innovation."

    I don't think so Tim.
    It's an example of the opposite, because something new and innovative was invented, but because it wasn't invented by the right person, it will be killed instead of adopted. Just when you and school children thought it was safe to learn where Uzbekistan is, too...
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FLEB (312391) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:28PM (#14179181) Homepage Journal
    Or, suck it up, shut it down, and try for a more original idea. Why not aspire to a new original game rather than a technically-legal finagled version of something that already exists.

    I commend the game's maker. There're so many, on both sides, who would spend more time fighting for rights in their old, dubiously legitimate creations than it would take to just come up with something new and better. This fellow's content to move on to bigger and better things. Someone should get this guy into Disney... they could use such an attitude.
  • Lux? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by karnifex (724937) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:31PM (#14179205) Homepage
    How do shareware games like Lux (sillysoft.net) get away with selling a game directly based on Risk, and this guy - who isn't making a dime - gets shut down?
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2005 @03:06PM (#14179386)
    If the game looks similar and plays the same, but does not have its rules phrased the same as the original game, is this a violation of copyright? I'm genuinely curious.

    Why bother asking? Hasbro has more money than you do.
    Come up with anything which even remotely resembles anything
    they have sold, thought of selling, or dreamed one night, and
    they'll sue your ass off.

    It's the American Way!
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @03:26PM (#14179492) Journal
    No, they don't own the trademark on the name of the game - nobody can. You're free to create your own game and call it risk: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html [copyright.gov]

    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.

    So Hasbro just fucked themselves - hard - because now a million nerds know they can make their own Risk game, even call it Risk, and there's nothing Hasbro can do about it.

    Ditto with Monopoly.

    Let the Clone Wars begin.

  • Re:First Question! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SilentChris (452960) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @04:36PM (#14179800) Homepage
    I actually briefly interned for the law firm that Hasbro uses. One guy had his office filled with toys (Mr. Potato Head and the like). In one corner was a framed check (lawyers often keep fake ones for memorabilia) of a $100,000 victory over some company.

    Anyway, this was back in the day when the internet was still taking off. I was working on this guy's computer and, seeing I knew about them, he asked me "Are there any games online that are similar to what Hasbro makes?" Without thinking, I mentioned Download.com and all its shareware.

    A couple of days later, I see him walking by with a huge stack of printouts -- screenshots of webpages. They were every little piece of shareware he could find that bared the faintest resemblance to a Hasbro title. He mentioned, "That was a great site you told me about." and walked off. A couple of months later I saw a number of those games disappear forever.

    To this day, I'm kicking myself over telling him about it. Moral of the story: unless they're defending you, don't ever talk to a lawyer, even in passing.
  • Re:Another game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsartist (550317) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @05:09PM (#14180032) Homepage
    So make your Risk game, your Camen Sandiego game, yur Sim City game - you can even use the same name.

    Actually, "Risk" is a trademark, so he couldn't use that name. That's what got him in trouble - if he'd called it by any other name, and made sure to use his own description of the rules and mechanics, and his own artwork, he wouldn't be in trouble right now.

    All these attempted smack-downs by lawyers who should know better make me sick.

    Lawyers in general make me sick... but they didn't really have a choice in this instance. Trademark is a "defend it or lose it" proposition.
  • Re:Copyrights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @06:00PM (#14180334) Journal

    Just a few quick notes: Hasbro only recently tried to claim that the name Risk is copyrighted. I have a pre-2003 game, and they only claim trademark and/or copyright protection on Hasbro and Parker Brothers in that one.

    On a more recent version, they claim trademark and/or copyright on Hasbro, Parker Bros, and RISK (all capitals). They do NOT claim trademark in either case on "Risk", only the stylized "RISK". Big difference in trademark law, but even then, they make a mistake. They also clame copyright on the rules, and the rules are not, by law, copyrightable, only the particular text used in their version.

    My guess - someone was looking to try to expand their claims, 40 years after the fact. RISK has been around for a LONG time.

    As I pointed out elsewhere, generic terms are not trade-markable on their own, only in connection with the company name.

    Microsoft found this out the hard way with ther failed action against Lindows.

    To be fully proof from misuse by others IN THE SAME FIELD, it has to be a "made-up" word - one that you can then claim uniqueness for your product. For example, if I make a new OS, and I call it the "redoxical", since the term "redoxical" doesn't exist before I coin it and apply it to MY product, it is protected. If on the other hand, I call it a "Windows" cOS, since windows isn't a "made-up" term, I do not get to claim exclusive use - only use with MY version.

    Hence, "Microsoft Windows:" is protected, but "Windows" as the term for an operating system is not. It cost Microsoft $20 million to get Lindows to walk away from that one, and the judge had already stated his doubts that Microsoft would succeed. That's why Microsoft will pay up every time rather than go to court. They screwed up when they picked the name, and used a generic term.

    This is also why IBM couldn't go after Sony over the PS2, even though IBM had already created their line of computing devices a decade earlier using the same name. PS2 is not distinct enough to be considered fully trademarkable. It thus enjoys protection only when used in conjunction with the company name - "IBM PSS" vs "Sony PS2"

    Its also why Intel had to invent the "Pentium" brand - you can't copyright a term like "586". Generic.

    Heck, even the X-Box is on shaky ground - any computer running X Windows back in the days when the console was the norm, would be referred to as an "X Box". Thats what I was calling them, and I'm sure I wasn't alone.

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @06:56PM (#14180646) Journal
    It's not even a question of "fair use".

    The law doesn't provide protection, either under copyright or under trademark, for generic words. For example, Windows is not a trademark of Microsoft. They learned that lesson the hard way, and it cost them $20 million to avoid hearing a judge say that (google Microsoft Lindows)

    Trademark protection only is valid for non-generic, coined terms, and even then it can be lost by neglect, or adoption by the public as a generic (Escalator is a good example). But you can NOT trademark a term such as "Raisin Bran" and expect to win in court. Kelloggs can't sue Post, because only the terms "Kelloggs Raisin Bran" or "Post Raisin Bran" are protected, not "Raisin Bran" by itself.

    So you can create a game called "kimvette RISK" and there's nothing they can do except bluster and threaten.

    Here's the actual letter they wrote:

    Dear Mr. Hazen:

    We are counsel for Hasbro, Inc. (.Hasbro.), the owner of the copyrights and trademarks for the famous RISK&#65533; game. We write concerning the online .Risk. game (the .Game.) that you have made available for use in conjunction with Google maps at your website www.ashotoforangejuice.com/gmrisk.html. Your Game appears to copy elements of Hasbro.s RISK&#65533; game and rules as well as its trademark. The RISK&#65533; game, including the rules, is the copyrighted property of Hasbro.

    Translation: If this sneaks by your bullshit detector, I p0wn you. Hopefully, you won't check to see exactly what the law says ...

    Of course, the law says otherwise - they do NOT "own" the rules The rules to the game of Risk are not protected by copyright:
    http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html [copyright.gov]

    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.

    ... So much for that. Let's continue

    Hasbro also owns the trademark rights to the RISK&#65533; name.

    They may have a piece of paper from the trademark office saying that, but its unenforceable. You can no more trademark the work "Risk" in connection with a game than you can trademark "Windows" in connection with computers. Microsoft found that out, and it cost the $20 Million to get Lindows to walk away from Microsoft's own lawsuit. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

    Trademark is only enforceable on terms that are not generic - in other words, a word YOU make up, not one you find in a dictionary.

    Your unauthorized use of the RISK&#65533; game constitutes copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. &#65533; 501. Your unauthorized use of the RISK&#65533; name also violates the federal trademark laws, including 15 U.S.C. &#65533;&#65533; 1114(1) and 1125(a), by creating a likelihood of confusion with respect to Hasbro.s authorization or sponsorship of or association with your commercial activities. Even if confusion were not likely, your unauthorized use of these elements is likely to dilute the distinctive quality of the RISK&#65533; game and trademark and hamper their ability to function as source-identifying marks in violation of 15 U.S.C. &#65533; 1125(c) and numerous state anti-dilution laws.

    Translation: I'm throwing a whole bunch of legal shit against the wall, in the hope that some will stic

  • Re:Another game (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Monday December 05, 2005 @11:08AM (#14184837) Journal
    The point about Windows wasn't just that it was a generic word, but that it was a generic word *which had meaning in that market* - ie, "window" was already commonly used to refer any window in a GUI.

    If window had never been used in the context of a GUI before, then it's possible the case may have been done differently. I mean, do you think another company would get away with calling themselves "Apple", and selling computers?

    "Risk" being a generic word surely isn't enough to mean it can't be trademarked - I would say the question is whether this term already has a specific meaning in the context of board games. It's possible you may end up being right and a court may rule that it isn't a valid trademark, but I wouldn't be sure simply because it's a word in the English language.

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