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General Forge Forums => Independent Publishing => Topic started by: SaintandSinner on June 16, 2009, 05:45:12 AM

Title: Copyright on personal use
Post by: SaintandSinner on June 16, 2009, 05:45:12 AM
Hi everyone,
I looked through the copyright sticky but didn't see an answer to my question.  We have a home made PDF that we'd like to print and have bound for personal use.  I'd also like to give a few away to the other contributors and to my players.  Thing is I'm not sure what art in the thing (and maybe some copy/pasted background text) might be copyrighted.  We just looked and found whatever looked good.  Is this a problem?  I'm not going to sell anything just make usable copies. 

Sorry if this is obvious, none of us are really sure.

Thanks.  B-)

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: Ben Lehman on June 16, 2009, 06:22:46 AM
This is not the right forum for these questions. There are only a handful of lawyers here, and I'm not sure whether any of them are intellectual property experts.

Try The Intellectual Property Law ( forums.

From my experience (a couple of years ago) they're very nice and helpful people.


Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: Tim C Koppang on June 16, 2009, 06:23:32 AM
First of all, you have to realize that copyright law is not always clear-cut.  There are no one size fits all answers.  There is also a difference between what is legal and what is practical.  Let me start by giving you some conservative advice:

I'm assuming that when you say, "home made PDF" you have an original game that you wrote.  You then searched the internet for interesting artwork and pasted it into your document.  Is that right?  If so, you own the copyright on your original material.  On the other hand, chances are that whoever created the artwork you lifted from the internet owns the copyright on each image.  You do not have a right to take other people's work and use it in your game, even if it's only for personal use.  Whether you sell or give away the game is almost entirely beside the point.  The absolute safest way to go is to find out who owns each image and get written permission to use them in your game.

That said, if you're printing out three copies of your game on your inkjet printer for yourself and your buddies, the practical reality is that no one is going to come after you for copyright infringement (probably).  If you're really paranoid, then I suggest finding some public domain images (public domain means that no one owns a copyright on the image), or licensing some dirt cheap stock images.  Just do a Google search for websites that offer these sorts of things and make sure that they're legit.

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: greyorm on June 16, 2009, 11:53:42 AM
You do not have a right to take other people's work and use it in your game...for personal use.

And that's where the debate is, because private, personal use, non-profit scenarios are actually supposed to be something you can do under copyright law.

Which is where Ben's advice above about contacting an IP lawyer with the exact details of what you're doing so you can figure out if it is an issue comes into play. Do that.

If this is something you made for yourself and are handing out to a couple friends? It's just not an issue (or not supposed to be). If you're trying to have someone bind and print it for you (Lulu, Kinkos, wherever), and sending multiple copies out through the mail and such, then it easily could be an issue.

That's where the area becomes gray and you'll need to talk to a lawyer.

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: SaintandSinner on June 16, 2009, 11:55:39 AM
I had an idea.  An internet forum ran with it.  Someone volunteered to flesh it out and make it pretty.  I'm not sure where the additional material came from but a concern about copyright was brought up when I mentioned printing it.  Just asking general questions before I go back to the other contributors and see what can be done to make it 'printable'.

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 16, 2009, 03:11:27 PM
Hi everyone,

Full disclosure: I asked Tim to weigh in because he is a lawyer, and Tim, I appreciate that you did so. Regardless, this forum is not a venue for formal legal advice, and everyone posting should be careful not to cross the line. Although most of it so far has tried to emphasize, "talk to someone professionally," threads of this kind are inherently problematic.

So where to go from here? Probably away from internet sources beyond informational links. Let us know what you learn, and the thread can become a benefit to everyone.

I'm not closing the posting, but the question does arise as to whether further discussion is actually necessary. If anyone really thinks so and is not merely tossing in an opinion because they happen to have one (what a surprise), then that's OK.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: Vordark on June 17, 2009, 06:40:49 AM
I wanted to echo something that Tim said and draw more attention to it.  You would be shocked (shocked, I say!) at how much there is out there in terms of public domain images.  Given I'm poor and just starting to think about actual products and artwork to go along with them, I've had to consider public domain images pretty much exclusively.  Combined with judicious use of tools like GIMP, I'm sure a lot of the questionable art you have could be replaced with nice, shiny, legal art.

As said earlier, any Google search for "public domain images" or "public domain art" will likely give you metric crap-loads of results, but a good place to start might be Wiki Commons:

Going with strictly public domain art neatly sidesteps the whole copyright problem and while you might not be considering wide publication of your stuff, if you use public domain art today, there's no need to edit things out tomorrow.

Just my own two cents.

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: ModusVivendi on June 17, 2009, 07:35:39 AM
Besides the legal point, images lifted from the web are 72dpi and print needs 300dpi. It will look awful printed.

Title: Re: Copyright on personal use
Post by: hoefer on June 20, 2009, 08:44:01 PM
72 DPI can be changed to 300 DPI with some Bicubic Up-sizing, a little Gaussian Blurring (I like a nice .5 to .9 setting) and some Dimensional Downsizing (get an image that's big and shrink it down -AFTER doing the other adjustments).  -I wouldn't say I like having to do this, but it does work and I have printed it at a POD printer and not been able to see significant differences between the 72 DPI image that was adjusted and ones that I scanned in at 300 DPI off the bat.  But again, starting with a larger image and making it smaller (like 85-90% of the original) is crucial!  So there you go, if you go that route.

Louis Hoefer