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  1. Prisoner of the Sun

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    Fantasy copyright?


    This question is more design than development but I think this is the most suitable forum...

    Are there any copyright issues to be aware of when deciding on fantasy creatures/races to include in a game?

    What I'm thinking at the moment is that no one can "own" the rights to a mythological creature - so if a creature originates from a myth then it's ok to use it. Is that right? If so I suppose it means I can use just about any fantasy creature I can think of. E.g. elves, trolls, ogres, kobolds etc.
    And I guess an example of something that could not be used would be a Beholder from D&D (unless my own Beholder was completely different than the D&D one).
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  3. Psycho Canadian
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    I'm not exactly sure on the answer, but considering how many D&D clones are out I'd think it's pretty much ok. As long as you aren't using something that is specify copyrighted say on there website (or graphics). I'd say it's fine.
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    Originally Posted by b3n
    This question is more design than development but I think this is the most suitable forum...

    Are there any copyright issues to be aware of when deciding on fantasy creatures/races to include in a game?

    What I'm thinking at the moment is that no one can "own" the rights to a mythological creature - so if a creature originates from a myth then it's ok to use it. Is that right? If so I suppose it means I can use just about any fantasy creature I can think of. E.g. elves, trolls, ogres, kobolds etc.
    And I guess an example of something that could not be used would be a Beholder from D&D (unless my own Beholder was completely different than the D&D one).
    No, it would be like copyrighting a concept.

    If you copied too much, though, you could still be accused of plagiarism. It's not illegal, but it would look bad.
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    Anything that you build that's based on copyrighted characters is going to be a big no no. But most people aren't going to track you down if you're doing some little thing. But if you do see it as getting beyond you then you could probably get the original creator to sign off on it. Like say you wanted to make an RPG based on the Wheel of Time series. You could probably contact RJ or whomever and try to get some permission. Don't expect much of that from Wizards of the Coast though.
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    This is a bit of a sticky issue, actually. Copyrights for certain fantasy creatures have been upheld in the past (vide Christopher Tolkien's lawsuit against TSR in the 1970s, where it was ruled that Hobbits were protected under the copyrights held by JRRT's estate). OTOH, concepts which have clear mythic antecedents, such as elves, goblins, fairies, dwarves, etc. of various sorts, are public domain sources (keeping in mind that those terms actually cover many very different sort of creatures, as well). To take another example from the D&D case, the same court ruled that the name 'orc' was generic, as JRRT had taken it from the 'orc-neas' in Beowulf (despite the fact that his orcs were nothing like the undead monsters in the original epic).

    OTOH, if you clearly base a creature with a given name on a specific form taken from an earlier source, it may be considered infringing, depending on how close the similarity is (especially if the wording of the descriptions or properties are the very close), though it would be up to the interpretation of the judge and/or jury for the case. Keep in mind that some unscrupulous companies will initial lawsuits which they don't expect to win but which they know will cost more than the defendant can afford, in order to force a competitor out of the market or at least disrupt their business operations.

    IANAL, YMMV.
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  11. Type Cast Exception
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    Don't expect much of that from Wizards of the Coast though.
    I contacted them. They told me to call attorney Joe. I did. He never called me back. I tried. They never came after me. This was a freeware program that helped track M:tG card collections and help build decks. It wasn't too bad a little app at the time. Long since gone for the most part.

    But I was taking chances with it. It was their data after all. The flip side is I was providing a service to hard core card collectors and if they came after me I would have to of course post their cease and desist letter on my website which probably would not be very good PR. That's often a trade-off that keeps one out of trouble :-P

    However, if you are going for a commercial product I would be careful. There is no substitute for consulting with a licensed professional attorney if you have any doubt.

    You might also be stepping on toes of trademarks which can be serious. Depending.

    Btw - yes, names of Gods and Demons from historic religion (aka mythology) are fair game. I have been myself working on some rendered animation projects featuring the muses.
    Last edited by medialint; March 2nd, 2007 at 05:02 PM.
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  13. Prisoner of the Sun

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    Don't worry - I don't really want to copy. I don't want yet another fantasy rpg with the usual cast of sterotypical beings and Tolkien rip-offs.

    I'm not even 100% sure about the Fantasy setting but my research indicated this was most popular. I do like fantasy but it's been done SO many times (but not right!).

    Anyway I hit a block trying to think of races for my game so I started wondering what it was ok to blag.

    Even if I do copy names, I would try to make my own creatures "my own".

    I'm quite well-versed in mythology etc. But I don't think Gods names are really meant to be spoken out of context, even if the speaker doesn't follow the associated religion.
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    - Heart Sutra
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    Im New to the forums learning how to make games ...

    But to your question Yes/ and no , When it comes down to certain thing like a specific name like for Example in Lineage II Antharas the Land Dragon, Antharas is a unique name therefore you cannot use it, but if you make it a name similar with different spelling you can easily say theres no relation.

    I recently found out that alot of RPG games uses name that mean another thing in english. Like Final Fantasy Bahumut is an arabic word for Behemoth, and you can use it because its a regular word. Just cant make them look like the same character.
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    Like other previous poster's had mentioned key aspects to your question, copyright is a very tricky thing, but really its nothing to be overly worried about. Just do a lil research when your working on idea's for your game, such as each of your character's names (whether this is a fantasy game or anything) and thatl be your best bet to find out what you can or cant do for certain things.

    I know when i was working on my own web based game i had to change the game's name about 5 times... and as for species in the game, i just made up original names, even if certain species resembled others that have been widely made popular.

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