About the law for "copying" a variant of an existing game...

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  • Hi,

    I'm a little confused. Are we allowed to "copy" or make a template based on an existing game or not ? It seems to depends of some criterias but I don't know whichs ones. Let me explain what I mean :

    If I take for example the game "Hill Climb Racing" : at the beginning, an indie dev has got this idea and now we can find a lot of variants of this game on Google Play (Android) with different names or styles, because a lot of others indies devs made them. (Including me because I made a template for Construct for this game ;) ).

    BUT about some games published on the App Store (Ipad or Iphone), there aren't any "copies" nor variants of these games.

    I'm asking that because I wanted to make a template of the recently famous game "Sneaky Sasquatch" because I didn't found any variants of this game on Android on Google Play. Same thing about "Untitled Goose Game" (although this game has been released on consoles lately...).

    So what the matter here ?

    Is it a question of copyright ? (the original dev of Hill Climb Racing didn't take a copyright, but the devs of SS and UGG did ?)

    Or is it because Apple has a kind of exclusivity on its games ?

    Please, if someone could explain that to me and, above all, tell me if I am allow or not to make a template ofr Sneaky Sasquatch for des who're using Construct 2 & 3 ?

    I'm sorry, I'm more specialized in the creation than in the distribution laws. But I want to be sure to not break the law.

    So, thank you for your answers.

    Take care.

    P.S : And don't worry, I'm not only a "copier", I have also my own original projects in mind but I love exploit the full potential of Construct to try to create special and rare templates of games for the indie devs who're working on Construct 2 & 3. ;)

  • I am not a lawyer so this is not legal advice (you'd have to talk to a real lawyer for that), and the law varies around the world. But on the whole I think you are OK so long as you do not use any of the exact same assets (artwork, audio, etc.) or code, since that is all covered by copyright, nor the same name, since that may be a trademark.

    For example you cannot use the exact Sonic sprite developed by Sega (that is their copyright), nor the name "Sonic" (that is their trademark). But you can make your own game involving a fast hedgehog that is based entirely on your own original assets (or someone else's original assets that you have permission to use), that also uses a different name.

    If you draw original materials that look similar to Sonic, that is a grey area and probably not OK since there can be somewhat loose rules about likeness. So to be on the safe side, don't try to make it look like any existing games, just keep things original.

  • Ok great ! Thank you so much !

    No don't worry i never use codes (i dont know how coding anyway 😅) just events.

    That's what I love in Construct, I'm simply uing logic to be able to replicate a game that has been made by codes ☺️

  • Actually, there is now a legal basis for confronting someone if the gamplay is similar!

    You can define a game being a "copycat" if the game uses the same gameplay elements in the same way in the same combinations, with roughly the same progression with no major changes.

    Changing assets, name, and calling it a day is no longer ok.

    In fact, web and mobile spaces are more and more starting to investigate games that are "too similar" to already existing titles to avoid conflict.

    However, you can still somewhat escape this as soon as your gameplay is different "enough" which is why Voodoo's hole.io can't be taken down even though the gamplay is strikingly similar to Donut County: Voodoo made an arcade online fake multiplayer game where the goal is to battle bots to get the better score when Donut county has a different progression system. Hence this makes hole.io and Donut county two games in the "hole that eats stuff to get bigger" genre even though that genre currently only has these two games.

    Btw, making templates aimed at copying the gameplay of popular title is still considered copying. They just have no ground to file a complaint as long as you don't monetize your template. As soon as you do though, they're in their full right to ask you to take it down. Most companies don't really care if you make a template of their mobile game, but if they did mind they could technically do something about it from what I know.

  • By the way, please note that here i'm talking strictly in terms of gameplay. Other elements can come at play too, like story, level design patterns, etc. The more the game is complex, OR the more the mechanics used by the game are common, the less there is legal ground to call out a copycat.

    Aka, if someone makes a 3D shooter where you shoot at people in square rooms, nobody would call it a wolfenstein clone. Same if you make a platformer where you need to jump over holes.

    Basically, if your game is an obvious attempt at riding on another game's gameplay and style, while doing your best to avoid asset/name copyright, then action can be taken.

    If you're just making a game with very common tropes used in many other video games, or if your game is clearly trying to be its own thing, and does not copy more than a few elements from other games, then you should be fine.

    it's still very much a grey area that most of the time gets resolved by Steam/Apple/Google directly, but it has been taken to court, and it has resulted in the party accusing the other game of being a copy to win their case. So there is legal precedent basically.

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  • I am not a lawyer so this is not legal advice (you'd have to talk to a real lawyer for that), and the law varies around the world. But on the whole I think you are OK so long as you do not use any of the exact same assets (artwork, audio, etc.) or code, since that is all covered by copyright, nor the same name, since that may be a trademark.

    Same here not a lawyer, but i looked intensively into copyrights over the years, and basically those are the CC rules (what Ashley mentioned), as long as you change the games look "reskin" don't use their assets, name and code structure(has to be different, you can use the same language, but not copy/paste anything that looks like the original ( and in some cases tetris don't use their layout size or object shapes - a lot of people got sued in court for this type of reasons, but this only happens, if the company wants to pursue your game/content and if its hurtful to them, in the tetris case, was a russian guy cloning it and calling it tetris something else... tetrisltd went in court they had a patent on tetris assets/game format/ how many pixels per row etc. i think they won the case, but then the court dismissed all claims similar to that cause tetris case created a precedent, and something wasn't right... tetris got in the end somewhere around 250k USD or so don't recall properly... it was early when they released the 1st game, and the guy that cloned it was hurting their income, releasing a exact copy with different shapes in the same time.)

    in general you are safe to "inspire" yourself from other games or existing products, it's only natural otherwise innovation would basically stop, same as how Construct looks and runs similar to ClickFusion and GameMaker but doesn't mean is a clone of those engines, is just a competitor.

    However, if the company that holds that product, has a patent on all the game aspects, you will be in a bit of trouble if you copy stuff that is visibly identifiable.

    But if the product has no patent, and it was already released to public, they will never be able to patent it, all they can do is sue for "artists copyright" that covers, images, sounds and fonts and other design stuff. gameplay style is not protectable at this point.

    Anyway, id double check this with a digital product and online distribution lawyer for official confirmation but this is what i know for stuff being "roughly legal/illegal" for the past ehm, been i think 8 years now...

    Edited: sorry seen to late Skymans reply... we basically went over the same thing 3 times lmao

    Edit 2: side note, worst case scenario? you get sued, all monetary gains you earned you have to give it to the guy that owns the rights for the artwork, gameplay etc... and you might be allowed to keep like 1% of future incomes if you play nice and beg for it :) otherwise, you lose the product. but in the end depends what is the original creator going to do as legal pursuing his rights... he going to allow you be in market or not.. if he allows it, you might get a copyright claim, and some % funds goes to him similar to youtube, or your game basically is taken down, but if you launch of ios ... ehm... i wouldn't do that, see apples platforms TOS... or even talk with one of their contacts... as google goes... anything goes there..

    also forgot to mention .... nobody will pay you for your lost time, and court driving, and appointments to lawyers etc... so if it will go that far... you risking a lot of your time for something that isn't even worth it, cause if its a clone its probably gonna make like 50$ per 100,000 views, not even close to the prices lawyers ask per hour.

  • Ok I read carefully all your answers, thank you so much, it's very clear and specific.

    Which it leads me to ask 2 more questions :

    1) Is there a difference between a copyright or a patent ?

    Or is just a way to speak ?

    2) If I try to make a template inspired by famous games, taking the max of precautions, but unintentionnaly, I infrige a copyright or a law, etc.

    My question is : are they going to warn me first and ask me to stop the sales and retire my template or my game from the market ? OR are they going IMMEDIATLY to sue me ?

    Because despite my efforts to follow the rules, of course I will retire my product if they ask me to. But I want to be sure to be warned first and not be pursuied !!

    Thanks for your answers ;)

  • Ok I read carefully all your answers, thank you so much, it's very clear and specific.

    Which it leads me to ask 2 more questions :

    1) Is there a difference between a copyright or a patent ?

    Or is just a way to speak ?

    2) If I try to make a template inspired by famous games, taking the max of precautions, but unintentionnaly, I infrige a copyright or a law, etc.

    My question is : are they going to warn me first and ask me to stop the sales and retire my template or my game from the market ? OR are they going IMMEDIATLY to sue me ?

    Because despite my efforts to follow the rules, of course I will retire my product if they ask me to. But I want to be sure to be warned first and not be pursued !!

    Thanks for your answers ;)

    From my personal knowledge (not a fully fledge patent person or copyright person, just self informed, i might be wrong, but again this is how i understand this 2 things), a patent applies to physical products and software that was never done before and the person that did it "invented it for the 1st time" like ... "attaching a zipper to a hoody to take off your sleeves" or "develop the first cryptocurrency" if the bitcoin people did a patent ... no other cryptocurrency would be alive today, but luckily they didn't ;) to get a patent you have to spend a lot of money and time and you need several people to do "official documents, drawing schemes, how things work etc" price varies from country to country.

    Copyright is a "Artists type of similar protection" being it a book, artwork online etc. the moment you published something original you are covered/protected. now not sure how you prove your rights on the copyright.. its a bit confusing, cause no other company, like in the case of the patent, says "yea this dude made it first and has the rights to it, and we are witnesses, and this document proves it".

    but i think you are safe, considering your game of choice to "clone" its a generic sidescrooler, even construct comes with a "Example template" by default... so i don't think they will sue you for gameplay "similarities" but they can for graphics and characters that look the same, story line etc.

    as per your last edited question: they will warn you first and ask nice to take it down, or have a meeting with them and share some revenue or pay some "non-exclusive license fee" it usually how it eventually settles in most cases.

    my personal advice, try contact the original developer, see if they offer a non-exclusive license, for you to be able to use that gameplay concept, since you are not buying a license on the actual source file of the game they made, the price for it, will probably be in the range of 3-4 digits.

    On other aspects, just ask a lawyer that is working with this type of stuff.

    Hope it answered your questions

  • My question is : are they going to warn me first and ask me to stop the sales and retire my template or my game from the market ? OR are they going IMMEDIATLY to sue me ?

    Don't forget that these are still human beings lol. They gain nothing by jumping immediately at your neck. Basically, if you don't pose a threat to them, they'll do nothing. The biggest threat you can pose for them by selling templates is allowing other people to actually try to copy and sell their game and be real competitors, and that's an issue, so instead of fighting competitors, they will fight you.

    Every company wants to save time, money and their public image. So them first asking nicely with a warning is their way of resolving everything with a simple message. That's meant for you to stop causing them problems and if you comply they probably won't ask for anything else.

    However, if you did make a shitton of money off their product AND you allowed competitors to directly attack them in their market, then this means that you'll be the cause for making them lose money. This would be a valid reason for them to ask you to give them a cut of your money to make up for the damage.

    No one likes to go on trial, so companies will only ever go on trial if challenged and if they know they will win AND make a profit doing so. Some companies might even go on trial out of spite if you were disrespectful when refusing to cooperate, to make an example out of you, even if this means they will lose money in the process (because then, no one else will ever try to challenge them again in the future).

  • Ok. That makes sense. :)

    Anyway, I'll do my best to just inspire myself from these games but innovate and change a lot of stuffs.

    A big thank you to everyone for all these advices. It's really appreciated. :)

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