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How To Judge Legal Risk When Making a Game Clone? 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the ask-a-lawye-oh-wait dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm an indie game developer making a clone of a rather obscure old game. Gameplay in my clone is very similar to the old game, and my clone even has a very similar name because I want to attract fans of the original. The original game has no trademark or software patent associated with it, and my clone isn't infringing on the original's copyright in any way (all the programming and artwork is original), but nevertheless I'm still worried about the possibility of running afoul of a look and feel lawsuit or something similar. How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer that my indie developer budget can't afford?"
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How To Judge Legal Risk When Making a Game Clone?

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  • by bcmm (768152) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:11AM (#30734618)

    How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer

    Laws have become horribly, horribly complex. I'm not sure any of us can do that for anything we do.

    • by snowgirl (978879) * on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:26AM (#30734680) Journal

      How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer

      Laws have become horribly, horribly complex. I'm not sure any of us can do that for anything we do.

      This is very true. I've been reading a lot about law recently, because it's become pertinent to my everyday life. In this case, and ALL legal cases, the law is SUPER crazy complex. First you need to read up on rules governing this stuff, then laws, then amendments to those laws, then you have to read a bunch of court cases on the matter, and then you have to have the legal background to understand how all of those apply to your specific situation.

      The summary author really only has one of two choices: a) pay a lawyer, or b) ignore the legal consequences and only deal with them if you get sued.

      Very simply, that's the plain ugly truth hanging-all-out-there-naked version of every question of, "what should I do about law X, or law Y"... well, unless you're in Arizona. Then there's an option c) pay someone who is willing to do the research for you, even if they're not a lawyer, but understand their qualifications before trusting their evaluations. Outside of Arizona, no one can even give you any clues about your legal liability without running aground of questions of practicing law.

      • by mrjb (547783) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:11AM (#30734892)

        a) pay a lawyer, or
        b) ignore the legal consequences and only deal with them if you get sued.

        It takes being a bit cheeky, but you can also

        c) contact the author/publisher of the old game and get (in writing) that they have no problems whatsoever with you releasing the clone.

        If you're dealing with a company like Atari (who? yes, they still exist!) or anything Disney, you are probably out of luck. If you're dealing with a Scott Adams (of Pirate's adventure fame) type of person, there's probably no problem at all. As you say the game is rather obscure, so chances are they will have no problem with you releasing a remake, and they won't sue. Perhaps they can even benefit from your efforts, if you're willing to link to the original game!

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by osu-neko (2604)

          ...a company like Atari (who? yes, they still exist!)...

          Depends on who you mean by "they". If by "they" you mean the people who bought the rights to use the "Atari" trademark, yes, they exist. If you mean the company that made classic video games in the 80s, no, they're long gone...

        • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:07AM (#30737280) Homepage

          If you're dealing with a company like Atari (who? yes, they still exist!)

          No, they don't. Atari as a company ceased to exist in 1996. The name was picked up by Hasbro in 1998 and then by Infogrames in 2001, but apart from the name, logo and ownership of a truckload of copyrights the organization currently calling itself "Atari" has absolutely nothing in common with the company Nolan Bushnell founded back in 1972.

          This isn't a question of Theseus' Ship sitting in the harbour at Athens and being slowly replaced board by board until there is nothing left of the original, it's more like Theseus taking his ship out to sea for a wild party, dousing it with gasoline and burning it to the waterline, only to have Menelaus build an entirely new ship in Sparta with the name "Thezeus" on the prow two years later and then sailing it to Mycenae and selling it to Agamemnon who turns it into an amusement park where people pay large sums of money to play on half-finished rides and be beaten with sticks when they complain.

          The modern day Atari is the ship that Orestes built after termites destroyed that one. And it has trouble floating because he ran out of wood before the job was done. The Mycenaean QA department insists that the boat is good and that there is no need to patch it as any sinking problems are clearly the fault of the end users.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      I sell FUD insurance. It's not clear now if you need it, but it would be very bad if you do turn out need it and don't have it.

    • In the US, 179 Members of the House and 57 Senators hold law degrees.
      Barack Obama is an alumni of Harvard Law School. Of 43 presidents, 25 have been lawyers.
      No small wonder that it takes a lawyer to get anything done in a society run by lawyers.
      Funny thing is, I don't know anyone that says they like lawyers...
      yet we put them in charge of everything...
      and then we wonder why we get fucked over!
    • by ultranova (717540)

      I'm not sure any of us can do that for anything we do.

      And it doesn't even matter if we could. The submitter can be sued for infringing whether he's actually breaking any law or not, and since he can't afford a lawyer and a long court battle, he'll lose.

  • by Senes (928228) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:19AM (#30734646)
    The question can not be asked whether someone "can" sue, because anyone can file a suit for any reason. And in modern legal warfare, that is a good assessment of how things go down. Instead it is a matter of whether they WOULD sue. The questions you should be asking yourself: -Who holds the rights over the original game? -How litigious have they been in the past? -Do they belong to an industry association?
    • by tverbeek (457094)

      Have you considered asking permission?

      • by tepples (727027)
        For a large enough company, the answer is probably "We have a policy of not giving indies the time of day."
      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:38AM (#30736816)

        This would land on the desk of a company lawyer, whose thought processes on the matter would be: "If I grant permission and something bad comes of this guy cloning the game, I'll get blamed for it. If I grant permission and this guy makes a lot of money cloning the game, I'll get blamed for the company not getting that money. If I don't grant permission, I can't get blamed for anything. Which do I choose?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162)

      And yet another question - do that corporation know that they have the right to that game?

      Not every corporation does have track records that legally entitles them to the copyright of a certain piece of software written some 30 years ago. It may be that during some part of the process those rights were left out or that the purchase only was for the brand name etc.

      Not everyone suing does hold the rights either.

      There are multiple variations on a theme here. But if you do sell a look-alike that does have some m

      • by Pharmboy (216950)

        That is a good point. Even SCO/Novell had trouble at first determining who owned the copyrights to Unix, which isn't/wasn't a trivial matter.

  • Risk it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dintech (998802) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:20AM (#30734648)

    Go for it and don't worry. If you make money on the game and someone notices, you might need to share the profits. Given the description of the game, that might be fair in this context. On the other hand, if you don't make any money, no-one is going to bother you with anything other than a cease and desist. Either of these scenarios will make your game more popular. See Streisand effect for details.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Yeah, I'd second this. Most likely, if the original publisher notices, and you're small fry, they'll just send a C&D, not try to sue you immediately. It's only worth their time to sue right off the bat if they suspect you have deep pockets, e.g. if this clone got distributed through a major publisher.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by delinear (991444)
        Obviously the downside to that is that, if you've invested money in producing the game and then you're hit with a cease and desist before you've sold anything, you'll be out of pocket for the development costs.
    • Re:Risk it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zadaz (950521) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:58AM (#30735108)

      "On the other hand, if you don't make any money, no-one is going to bother you with anything other than a cease and desist."

      This is entirely false and shows the problem with asking for legal advice from random strangers on the Internet. If a company feels that you're damaging their trademark, image, etc, they'll sue you for damages, even if you have never made a dime. And they can win money you don't have.

      If you have a question for a lawyer and you can't afford one, stop what you're doing. It's that simple.

      The OP says:

      " The original game has no trademark or software patent associated with it..."

      How do you know? Did you just type "obscure game" into the USPTO's web site? Or did you have someone who knows what they hell they're doing to a trademark and patent search. I suspect it's the former because the latter costs money, which you complained about not having, and can be done by an attorney who could also answer your questions.

      The OP continues

      "...my clone isn't infringing on the original's copyright in any way (all the programming and artwork is original)"

      And this is why you're in deep crap, you have a limited and incorrect idea of what copyright is.

      Oh, and hey, you're not making an iPhone game are you? Because if you are, when you go to publish your game you'll see the checkboxes for all those other countries, so hey, why not publish them there too? Bigger audience, more money, right? Or at least bigger potential legal risk. Copyrights, trademarks, patents, and intellectual property law are different in different countries, and lately the US has been willing to cooperate with litigious foreigners.

      Note that I'm blindly assuming you're in the US. That's because you left the all important "what jurisdiction I'm in" information off your question. Just another sign of your ignorance and why you really really need to find the money for a lawyer.

      • Mod parent up!!

        Most insightful post so far. Especially the iPhone part.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tepples (727027)

        If you have a question for a lawyer and you can't afford one, stop what you're doing.

        In other words, everybody who isn't rich enough to see a lawyer should commit suicide because ultimately, everybody has questions. I hope this isn't what you meant.

        Did you just type "obscure game" into the USPTO's web site?

        If I type each of the companies that developed and published the game into the "Assignee Name" field and nothing on the list is relevant, is that enough?

        And this is why you're in deep crap, you have a limited and incorrect idea of what copyright is.

        Could you explain further? As far as I can tell given information published by the U.S. Copyright Office [copyright.gov] as well as the opinion in Capcom v. Data East, copyright doesn't apply to the rules of a g

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dissy (172727)

          If you have a question for a lawyer and you can't afford one, stop what you're doing.

          In other words, everybody who isn't rich enough to see a lawyer should commit suicide because ultimately, everybody has questions. I hope this isn't what you meant.

          Wow. If that is the logic you use in life, then perhaps that would be good advice for you.
          But no, nobody here except you means that.

          If you want legal advice, you get it from a lawyer. It's that simple.
          If you aren't rich, there is no need for any mass suicides, it just means you can not afford the proper legal advice, and will be moving forward with potential risk of running up on the law or someone elses rights (Or perceived rights anyway)

          As a car example, I can not afford to have a second car sitting aro

      • Re:Risk it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Icarium (1109647) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:59AM (#30737168)

        If you have a question for a lawyer and you can't afford one, stop what you're doing.

        That has to be the saddest statement I've read in a long time.

      • Re:Risk it (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gordo3000 (785698) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#30737182)

        why waste money on a lawyer? do you have idea what it costs? why not mimic what the big guys do: check the obvious and if it isn't there, don't waste time going through every IP whore's portfolio.

        given that you read slashdot, you should browse the home page and notice that MS just pulled office as it lost a patent suit. Any idea how much money MS has? how many lawyers are on their payroll? how ridiculous it is to expect someone to pay 10s of thousands of dollars for an in depth IP search across multiple markets? that is one heck of a brute force approach. I sure hope you aren't trying to run a small business that has anything to do with IP because I'd be worried as an investor that you are squandering money trying to turn over every stone rather than building a better product.

        how about a creative approach? hire a lawyer to start a small corporation where he is the only investor and have that company publish the game. At that point, if he gets into trouble, he just loses the capital in the company. If he is smart and pays himself a salary as a hired employee, then (granted, his taxes get more complex) even with a lawsuit, he should have been able to drain enough of hte earnings out of the company in his salary to not be on the hook for his personal assets. A small business lawyer can do this for cheap (1k) and help him work through many of his questions quickly about how to separate the books properly. but it's sure a smarter idea than "hey lawyer guy, why don't you take this product and search every IP in every market and see if I'll run foul". oh, and while he is at it, I'm sure you are expecting him to get it right. we've seen how many well financed companies have no IP problems.

  • You can't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:20AM (#30734650) Homepage Journal

    How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer that my indie developer budget can't afford?

    You can't. The worst thing you can do is what you're doing; going to a bunch of random armchair lawyers on the Internet.

    If you're that worried, get a lawyer or do a different project.

    • ...and is weighted against derivative hacks. Go figure!

      • by selven (1556643)

        Everything is derivative. Trying to fight this isn't being original, it's reinventing the wheel.

      • Damn straight! If only we had had a legal system like this back in the sixteenth century, we would have been able to prevent that English hack from ripping off the Matteo Bandello in his totally derivative romantic tragedy and the world would be a much better place.
    • by dnaumov (453672) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:57AM (#30734826)
      Even better, instead of just getting a lawyer, get a lawyer AND make original games! Sounds crazy, but seems to work for some...
      • Even better, instead of just getting a lawyer, get a lawyer AND make original games!

        What exactly do you mean by "original"? If you mean the first of its genre, I'd like to see evidence that it's still possible to develop original games. The last genre-making game I can remember (Parappa the Rapper) was published in the 1990s.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Once they're all dead, they'll be no-one left to sue you.

  • Just making a clone can tie you up in court unnecessarily, such as MySQL AB v. NuSphere [politechbot.com], where a non-GPL clone of the mysql client API is being attacked unfairly. There are many instances where a similarities to another software package of something has caused horrible legal battles that do nothing but make the lawyers rich and make programmers find new careers in disgust.

    These days it seems dangerous to program without becoming incorporated or doing it under the umbrella of a big company. Who wants to lose

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Firewing1 (1072250)
      They didn't just mimic a public API... they included a statically linked version of MySQL [mysql.com] without releasing their derived code under the GPL as well:

      The product contains MySQL[tm] under GPL and Gemini. Gemini is statically linked to the MySQL code. This means that Gemini needs to be under GPL as well, but it is not.

  • PlanetMULE (Score:3, Funny)

    by BobisOnlyBob (1438553) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:24AM (#30734664)

    By any chance are you the guy running PlanetMULE?

  • Position wisely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by santax (1541065) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:25AM (#30734670)
    On the globe that is. If you do not want to get sued (I am European so we don't have that problem really here) make sure you are NOT officially an US developer. Create a cheap company on some island in the middle of nowhere where the US has nothing to say. When the original creator starts wanting to get paid for your work, move to that island and just enjoy it! Laws are so utterly complex, one law overruling or disagreeing with another law that it would be foolish to think you by yourself can fight against that system. They will just bleed you dry if they really want to and have the resources to do so. However, and this is more serious advice. I like to make remakes of oldschool games myself. Sometimes with new elements, but I have also made a lot 1:1 remakes. In those cases I just wrote to the original creator. Asking if they were ok with it. This was all non-profit though, but for the 8 games I remade, 1 guy said he didn't want me to remake it. So I ignored him, remade it for myself but never gave it to anyone. I never ran into problems with that last tactic. And I think it really is the best advice I can give you. Track down and contact the original maker and ask them permission. That would save you so much trouble if they agree.
  • Sounds high risk (Score:5, Informative)

    by williamhb (758070) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:31AM (#30734710) Journal

    In my (non-legal-professional) opinion, what you are doing sounds high risk -- you are consciously replicating their expressed work (the game) and even admittedly giving it a deliberately similar title. It sounds like there are some copyright issues -- some things about games can be copyright and others can't; your remake might be considered a "derivative work" however. If you did wheedle out of that complaint, it sounds like you could still potentially be sued for "passing off" as you have a deliberately similar product with a deliberately similar name.

    I'd advise having a look at the legal history of Scrabulous. They remade a not-so-obscure game, got sued, won on some parts but lost on others, but are still trading (being sued is not necessarily game over).

    • Scrabulous is an EXACT COPY of Scrabble. The board layout, the point multipliers, the letter value and distribution all identical.

      So, do NOT look at it unless you are doing all of those things.

  • Original game (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jedi Alec (258881)

    Do you know who owns the IP to the original game? Do they have a habit for litigating? Do they even know they have the IP or did they acquire it by buying distributor X that bought then bankrupt studio Y that got it from independent coder Z?

    And is the original game Hardwar or X-com? Because in that case, keep programming, whatever happens ;-)

    (Make sure you release the source before getting dragged off by some goons into a black helicopter though)

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:33AM (#30734716) Homepage

    So if you ever make any, spend some of it on an accountant(*) and get him to set up two companies: one incorporated in Elbonia that has all the assets, and a shell development company with all the liabilities. Don't contest any lawsuit, just smile, punt the shell company into bankruptcy, and set up another one.

    This isn't meant to be flippant; it's a model that works just fine for Hollywood. Ask any creative type who's ever tried to get any money out of a studio.

    (*) Accountants are much like lawyers, except that they're cheaper, and they can be harmed with conventional weapons.

    • They can only sue you for money that you have

      Really. Hmmm... $1.92 million verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/06/jammie-thomas-retrial-verdict.ars [arstechnica.com]

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        And as an individual, she can't just slough it off by declaring bankruptcy. If she'd acted as the CEO of a limited company, she could have just walked away. Lesson learned?
      • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @08:43AM (#30735704)

        They can only sue you for money that you have

        Really. Hmmm... $1.92 million verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset

        Exactly. You now understand the post perfectly. Set up a dirt poor shell corp, let them sue the corp for 100000 billion for all you care, let them take possession of the corporations coffee maker and its promotional tee shirt collection, and start over at a new shell company.

        Make sure to at least talk to a "cheap" lawyer about becoming judgment proof and the phrase "piercing the corporate veil".

        The overall gameplan is to make setting up a shell corp cheaper than suing the shell corp into non-existence all while somehow making a profit despite the profound lack of corporate capital.

        Obviously, don't do something stupid like loan your personal money to the shell corporation, unless you want to lose that money (or can afford to lose it).

  • To deal with a cease and desist action you need to have guts, means, and rights - pick any two, and it may do. If you have the guts and the means you can make a lot of smoke, and they may decide it is not worth fighting you. If you the guts and are in the right, you can explain to them that you are in the clear and answer their letters through an expensive lawyer as a bluff to make them think you have the financial means to fight. If you have the means and the rights, you do not need guts (but then you woul

  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:53AM (#30734810) Homepage

    I am copying what they did as exactly as I can, though because I don't understand what "copyright" means, I think it has nothing to do with this. Meanwhile, I am using their name for the exact reasons that laws exist to prevent such a thing happening, but I don't think that matters either. Finally, I haven't even bothered to contact the people who made the game, because to me it's more important that I "don't get sued" than that I'm, you know, a decent human being or anything.

  • Do your research (Score:5, Informative)

    by lewster32 (1719106) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:01AM (#30734854) Homepage
    I'm working on a project of a similar nature for an early Julian Gollop game called Chaos: Battle of the Wizards, and I devoted a good amount of time early on in tracking Julian down and seeking his permission. It's obviously a complex and confusing process that's individual to each game, but at the most basic level there is always the intellectual property to be aware of. Also, things change significantly if you wish to make a commercial venture of the game. As said in other comments, a free 'tribute' is a lot less open to flak (unless you're 'tributing' a Nintendo game, in which case buy body armour and watch out for red dots) and will generally be ignored. If however you remake a game and whack it on the App Store for $2.99 again, you're gonna have to watch your back (if it even gets approved in the first place) For my own part, I finally got in touch with Julian via LinkedIn, and he turned out to be most gracious, supportive and polite, and he gave his blessing for me to continue (http://www.rotates.org/2009/05/20/the-man-speaks/ [rotates.org]). It's really worth taking the time to find the original developer and taking it from there.
  • Stand on your own (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:03AM (#30734864) Homepage

    Get your own name. You can go fairly far in cloning gameplay - think how much one FPS or TBS or RTS or RPG looks like the other, but don't steal unique units, characters and storylines. And while I don't approve of astroturfing where you pretend to be a customer, you can generated buzz about it. Go into every forum you can find about the old game, say this game is inspired of it. Right now I'm playing Dragon Age, and boy are there many old chestnuts of dwarves and elves and warriors and rouges and mages and the whole storyline about a blight and an archdemon are hardly original. Go for the one-up, "if you liked [old game], you'll love [new game]". Right now you come of sounding like one of the cheap watch salesmen "same same but different".

    • by Gorath99 (746654)

      Exactly. And try to get your game reviewed by some people. Then they can tell others how much it reminds them of that oldie that you got your inspiration from. Much classier than just making a game called "Pocman" or "Super Vittorio Bros."

      Take a page from Trine [trine-thegame.com]. It's obviously inspired by Lost Vikings, but it's not a straight ripoff, and they don't (need to) market themselves as such. In the meantime, every other review of the game mentions Lost Vikings, and I'm sure that's how they get many of their sales.

  • In the UK... (Score:2, Informative)

    by CapnOats.com (805246)
    ...you should be fine.

    This article details legal proceedings in just such a case.
    http://www.daledietrich.com/gaming/novas-pool-cue-game-mechanics-not-protectable-by-uk-copyright/ [daledietrich.com]

    A choice quote by Lord Justice Jacob is

    "A series of drawings is a series of graphic works, not a single graphic work in itself. No-one would say that the copyright in a single drawing of Felix the Cat is infringed by a drawing of Donald Duck. A series of cartoon frames showing Felix running over a cliff edge into space, lookin

  • My eye is now firmly fixed on this thread.

    I am doing something *similar* to the OP, an iPhone-and-Android-and-PCs semi-remake of an old classic ('Eye of the Beholder' for anyone who's curious), although my project has a few substantial differences:

    My game...

    - .. is substantially higher resolution and visually very pretty (IMHO).
    - .. 's name is completely different (Tale of Vamadon), takes place in an entirely original campaign world, and features an entirely different and original storyline.
    - .. has complic

    • Eye of the Beholder is, itself, just another in a series of that style of game.

      Since it sounds like you aren't doing anything that has anything to do with it - how is it a remake? You're just making an RPG.

    • by selven (1556643)

      Sounds like you're only copying the game's rules. Rules aren't copyrightable.

    • ... ur doin it rite!
  • Good luck with that. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jibjibjib (889679) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:28AM (#30734972) Journal

    How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer

    Aren't "legally in the clear" and "hiring an expensive lawyer" the same thing now?

    • by arethuza (737069)
      No - all that hiring an expensive lawyer does is give you someone to sue if you follow their advice and still get sued into oblivion by the other party.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by xtracto (837672)

        No - all that hiring an expensive lawyer does is give you someone to sue if you follow their advice and still get sued into oblivion by the other party.

        So your plan is to sue a lawyer??? you will need a lawyer for that I guess.... oh shit.

      • by Icarium (1109647)

        Hah, if only this were true - there would be be no more lawyers!

  • You don't... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by osu-neko (2604) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:04AM (#30735146)

    How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer that my indie developer budget can't afford?

    How do I make sure I don't get pregnant while having sex every day without using any form of contraception?

    (Obvious answer: you don't. If you want to make sure you're legally in the clear, you hire an expensive lawyer. If you don't want to hire an expensive lawyer, then you live with not being sure you're legally in the clear.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rhaban (987410)

      How do I make sure I don't get pregnant while having sex every day without using any form of contraception?

      Be male.

  • Your best bet is not to bother relying on the legal advice of a bunch of random strangers on a site like Slashdot. It's still a good idea to ask the question though, as a front page story gains you a huge amount of free publicity for your project. Make sure you don't forget to put a link to your game in the summary, however, or the whole exercise becomes rather pointless.

    • Legal questions on public forums are designed to draw one of these answers:
      1. IANAL, but stop NOW.
      2. Stop until you see a lawyer. IANAL, but here is some information that's useful to know before your first consultation: {...}
      3. IANAL, but you're probably in the right given citations A, B, and C, so you can hire a lawyer later, such as if and when you receive a cease-and-desist letter.

      As I read the comments (threshold 2 at the time I post this comment), the consensus is #2.

      • or 4. I am not a lawyer, I do not have any opinion about the question asked, but boy your project sounds cool and I'll happily follow the link to your site.

        Not that this appears to be the reasoning in this case, unless the submitter just completely forgot to include the link. :)

  • In other words use common sense ( I don't need to be a frigging lawyer to know that).

    Develop the game, release under an open license.

    If anybody is interested about it in the legal sense, then they will bother you about it, at that point you stop any alleged infringing activities if youcan defend yourself legally (it can't be copy right, it can.t be patents, it can't be trademarks, the vague "look and feel" or a general idea about a game is not protectable, the myriad of "look and feel" clones of famous game

  • Could you ask permission from the copyright holder?

    Some remakes (ie: direct copies of old games) are done with the blessing of the person who created the original game. Just tell them the truth: you like their game and you want to make a modern version of it. They may say yes.

  • If you find a competent, reputable IP attorney, it shouldn't cost more than $500 to sit down with them for a 1 hour consultation. I got a 1.5 hour consultation with an outstanding, very in-demand real estate attorney on the outskirts of metropolitan DC for $400. You don't need to retain his services, just get him to go over your plan and tell you what he thinks is your risk.
  • I have to ask...why make a clone of a game that already exists and sounds like is abandonware? It sounds like you could just as easily turn it into a rom and emulate it or something.

    Now, if you're trying to just make a fun game that has the same spirit of one you loved - then I suggest you revamp it. Give it better graphics - give it a new story. Make it a whole new experience for the player - otherwise you're "reinventing the wheel" as they say.

    Anywho - if you're planning on making money on making these ga

  • How do I make sure I'm legally in the clear without hiring an expensive lawyer that my indie developer budget can't afford?

    Easy, hire an inexperienced cheap lawyer? Its better than nothing. Its like saying, "I need to hire a C++ developer, but I can't afford Bjarne Stroustrup, so what should I do?"

    Also, everyone starts at the bottom somewhere. A young ambitious lawyer whom wants to be the future corporate counsel for Microsoft might very well work for you for free to stuff his/her resume. Hint, they're going to want a spiffy job title.

    So, find a fan of your game whom happens to be a young lawyer whom would like to gain a lo

  • Games like Dune 2 and Warcraft and almost all other RTS games play like each other.
    Most FPS games play like each other.

    What is working here is that:

    Features are viral, and once a game invent a way to build games that seems fun, others clone that. Even the games that create a whole new way to play, clone everything else, from menus, filesystems, way to store a bitmap in a disk. The creation of a videogames is a community effort, where all minds work togueter. No game can claim to be 100% original, with no

  • I am a lawyer and practice primarily in software. I tried to read through this thread and responses - and as is typical here, at least for me, it is hard to separate the valuable insight from really really bad advice. I enjoy /. mainly for the comical signature lines most of the time.

    First - no venture, no product or service, is risk free. There are ways to minimize the risk - and often small changes can make a big difference. The post you made here is itself possible evidence. By merely posting in a pu

  • The original game has no trademark or software patent associated with it, and my clone isn't infringing on the original's copyright in any way

    If what you say is fact, then you did all the research already. The only thing you can get from Slashdot is "Go ask a lawyer" or "how should we know?" or the overly skeptical and cautious "law is absurd and complex so it doesn't matter what you do, you could wind up in court anyway."

  • Standard, disclaimer: IANAL.

    Regardless of what other advice you follow to limit the chances of a lawsuit, you should start a Limited Liability Company to reduce your personal exposure to such a lawsuit. In most states this should cost around $100. If the LLC releases the game, it is the LLC that assumes liability. If the creator of the original game does sue, they can only be awarded the assets of your LLC (which, if you manage it correctly, should be limited to the game itself).

    This will take a little bit

  • Please tell me you are cloning Darklands. Ok, it's not rather obscure but I loved that game so much!

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.

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