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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 49 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Trademarks and copyrights  (Read 1665 times)
Ken
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Posts: 196


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« on: March 10, 2006, 09:09:41 AM »

Hi,

New to forum. Nearing completion of my game and am curious about how others have gone about protecting their products. Am I just spinning my wheels without a lawyer? Is copyright enough, or should I be securing a trademark? Interested in hearing others experiences with this.

Thanks,

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2006, 09:13:44 AM »

Heya,

Getting a copyright is as far as I've ever gone.  But you may want to read the following for more info: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14554.0

Peace,

-Troy
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Ken
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2006, 11:09:27 AM »

Has anyone out there ever felt the need to use a lawyer? Was it worth it? If you didn't, did you later wish you had? Any advise here would be appreciated.

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
Brendan
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2006, 11:57:07 AM »

(Note:  I am not a lawyer.)

Ken, what's your goal with regards to trademarks and copyright?  Just to keep people from reselling your content as their own?

If so, you don't even have to register a copyright, much less a trademark--your material is copyrighted as soon as you write it down, which gives you legal recourse to stop other people from using it (but not to recover damages).

If you're considering the possibility that those infringers might actually contend in court that they came up with the material before you, your publication date (whether online or in print) should be sufficient to falsify that claim.  Your webhost, online retailer or publisher will be able to verify that date.

If you're attempting to protect your market niche by taking legal action against subsequent games using the same ideas or mechanics, well...  don't.  Text can be copyrighted; ideas and mechanics can't.

One more thing:  I don't think anyone has ever tried the resell-as-own scheme on an indie RPG--there's just not much money or esteem in it, since the community is small and creators do their own marketing.  It's much more common for people to pass around or fileshare copies of games  for free.  The usual response is to clamp down on that practice via copyright infringement claims, but by doing so, you can deny your game mindshare and build ill will.

Instead, have you considered turning the practice to your own advantage by loosening your copyright under a Creative Commons license?  None of them will prevent you from making money from your game, but as Clinton Nixon will attest, CC licensing can increase word of mouth and drive buyers to you.
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Ken
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2006, 02:22:19 PM »

Thanks for the input. I understand that mechanics and rules can not be protected under copyright law, which is totally cool. There are characters and other setting stuff though that would be considered intellectual property, and I was curious how far I need to go to protect that.

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
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Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2006, 03:02:35 PM »

There are characters and other setting stuff though that would be considered intellectual property, and I was curious how far I need to go to protect that.

Can't copyright or trademark those, either.  All you can do and really need to do is publish and be sure to put a copyright notice on the text.  If somebody goes and makes a Hollywood blockbuster based on your material, that will suffice to verify your claim to the IP.
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pells
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Posts: 192


« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2006, 01:25:35 AM »

Quote
There are characters and other setting stuff though that would be considered intellectual property, and I was curious how far I need to go to protect that.
If you want an easy, preventive way of getting a copyright, especially if what you want to use a lot of excerpts before publishing, you might be interested in this :
http://www.copyrightdeposit.com/

You'll also find a lot of legal information. In fact, you don't really need a copyright to protect your work, but this service is so easy (you download your file to their server), so low cost (12 USD), that I didn't see a reason not to use it. If it could put your mind at ease. I know it did for me !!!
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Julian
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Posts: 40


« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2006, 10:10:05 AM »

You don't need to "get" a copyright. Your work is automatically copyrighted when you create it.

That site looks more like a money-making scheme than an actual useful resource.
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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Posts: 391


« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2006, 04:11:09 AM »

Hi Ken,

The responses you are getting are mostly right. You do not have to register a copyright for your work, it is copyrighted by default. However, registering your copyright with the copyright office strengthens your ability to defend it. Registering allows you to seek statutory and attorney fees in a successful court case. Is this something you need? I can't say. I think the question would be to ask yourself how popular you think your game will be and how strongly you want to defend it. Essentially, what's at risk? How important is the product, and what are you willing to do to defend it?

Here's lots of info on copyright from the copyright office.

Now Trademark is a different matter. A trademark is used to establish your product or products from someone else's. Again you do not have to register a Trademark, but you receive quite a bit more strength to protect your Trademark. If you don't want to register you simply add TM. My understanding is that you cannot trademark a singular word of the English language, but you can with a single made up word like Xerox for example. Otherwise you can trademark a phrase. I do believe this means you might be able to Trademark a characters name. I think that was why 2 Live Crew's Luke Skywalker, had to change his name to Luke after being sued by Lucas.

The problem with Trademark is you need to be diligent about protecting them, or you can lose your rights. This means Xerox has to watch out for printed works when someone uses Xerox instead of copying. For example, I'm going to Xerox a couple of sheets. So if you don't register you could find that maybe you are violating someone else's trademarks. Registering will mean that your mark is looked at to make sure it is unique.

Trademark is necessary for companies, including large game companies, but I'm unsure it's needed as much for an Indie game. You can read more about it, and make up your own mind.
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