United States Copyright: Games

Wargaming 101 for Designers and Enthusiasts

Moderators: MAGNA, Lucky Luke

User avatar
Whiterook
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:22 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA

United States Copyright: Games

Postby Whiterook » Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:02 pm

GAMES

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

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.

If your game includes any written element, such as instructions or directions, the Copyright Office recommends that you apply to register it as a literary work. Doing so will allow you to register all copyrightable parts of the game, including any pictorial elements. When the copyrightable elements of the game consist predominantly of pictorial matter, you should apply to register it as a work of the visual arts.

The deposit requirements for copyright registration will vary, depending on whether the work has been published at the time of registration. If the game is published, the proper deposit is one complete copy of the work. If, however, the game is published in a box larger than 12" x 24" x 6" (or a total of 1,728 cubic inches) then identifying material must be submitted in lieu of the entire game. (See “identifying material” below.) If the game is published and contains fewer than three three-dimensional elements, then identifying material for those parts must be submitted in lieu of those parts. If the game is unpublished, either one copy of the game or identifying material should be deposited.

Identifying material deposited to represent the game or its three-dimensional parts usually consists of photographs, photostats, slides, drawings, or other two-dimensional representations of the work. The identifying material should include as many pieces as necessary to show the entire copyrightable content of the work, including the copyright notice if it appears on the work. All pieces of identifying material other than transparencies must be no less than 3" x 3" in size, and not more than 9" x 12", but preferably 8" x 10". At least one piece of identifying material must, on its front, back, or mount, indicate the title of the work and an exact measurement of one or more dimensions of the work.

 

FL-108, Reviewed December 2011


U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
(202) 707-3000

Revised: 06-Feb-2012
If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning

User avatar
Whiterook
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:22 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA

Re: United States Copyright Office: Game Rules

Postby Whiterook » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:10 pm

Everything I find indicates that the entire game itself has very little coverage, but the rules themselves may qualify (e.g., '....sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression'), meaning the rule set and artwork you created.

Basically in layman's terms (and as a disclaimer....momma done raised no Lawyer here):

Copyright for creative works exists, and your rules (literary), and the art and graphical layout (pictorial/artistic expression) should qualify. The key point to remember is, you cannot copyright your 'Great Idea'....it never will. Someone that supposedly never saw your idea...your work...can theoretically copyright an almost duplicate.


The core language of U.S. copyright law states in pertinent part:

(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

(1) literary works;

(2-8) extra stuff like music, drama, pantomimes, pictures or sculpture, movies, sound, architecture.

(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.

Interpreted here:

(a) gives us copyright as long as it can be shown to be 'Original'; our work of 'Authorship'
Almost everything is 'original';and fixed in a tangible medium, as in written form and/ or pictures or images.

(a)(1) states 'literary'.....being, our rules

(b) states the ' Idea' is not protected.


So, what does this translate to me as? I can copyright my rules so they can't be EXACTLY DUPLICATED, yet the game 'idea'....being the concept, theme, procedure of play, and method of organization is free fare.

Clear as mud!
If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning

Frank
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 2756
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:17 am
Location: Leamington Spa. U.K

Re: United States Copyright: Game Rules

Postby Frank » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:58 am

Does seem a bit unfair that you can spend years developing a game only for someone to read it, change it slightly and "design" it.

This happened to a friend of mine a quite few years ago, he was a musician and electrical engineer and he came up with a better design for a fuzz pedal. he handed a few out to some of the other local bands to try and when he went to patent it found it had been altered slightly and been patented.It does make you wonder just how effective the whole system is.
"Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check.But that is not what I have found, it is the small everyday acts of normal folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
Gandalf the Grey

User avatar
Whiterook
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:22 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA

Re: United States Copyright: Games

Postby Whiterook » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:20 pm

True that....but....many people feel the better will win. By that, take that to mean, the person with more resources and drive to get the product out has the better chance to get the product in the most hands. Fair? Probably not.

I've personally wrestled with this for several years.....do I take the chance and get it out there? Or get it to a publisher sight unseen from the public?

Here in e United States, many game publishers don't want any part of your game once you've 'published it' in some form or another....it's spoiled goods, at that point. The other side of that coin are, given to the control of a major game publisher means you loose a lot of the profits....and sometimes, what your game ultimately looks like.

For my space combat game, I am leaning towards just publishing it myself, under my own game company name.
If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning


Return to “Wargame Design WorkShop”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest