[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Claims on game concepts

On Tue, 2003-10-14 at 18:26, Matthew Palmer wrote:
> I've just been having a stimulating discussion with the designer of the
> concept for one of the games in Debian - spellcast.  This was started with
> the intention of trying to negotiate a licence change for spellcast, so it
> can stay in main.
> The issue was raised of the legal claim game designers have over
> implementations of their game design - beyond any copyright (reproduction of
> a description of game rules, for instance) trademarks (calling your game
> 'Monopoly') or patents on the game mechanics.
> If there is a valid legal claim, Debian could find itself in some poop if
> someone decided to come and claim ownership of some of the game concepts in
> Debian, depending on how "argumentative" they wanted to get.
> For the record, I can't think of any specific legal claim which could be
> made, but I'm no lawyer.  Since the issue has been raised, I thought I'd
> bring it to the 'mavens' of d-legal, for a "frank and open exchange of
> viewpoints", and perhaps a palm-off onto SPI's legal beagles for a more
> studied opinion on the matter, if it is deemed appropriate.
> So, what does everyone think?  Is there any branch of law which could give
> the person or company that thought up how to play a game a claim against a
> separate, not-otherwise-infringing implementation of such a game?

This is an area I've been interested in, but unfortunately I lost all my
case law links in a hard drive crash a few months ago, and I'm terrible
at remembering names. IANAL, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm
familiar with copyright law and I've been lurking on OGF-L (Open Gaming
Foundation Licensing list) since its inception.

Copyright does not protect a game, usually. Copyright can apply to a
particular description of the rules; if enough of the rules are
"human-generated" any reimplementation of the rules may be a derivative
work. For example, monopoly's board can be comptuationally generated
(prices, rents, etc) - as such, it can't be copyrighted. RPGs are
thought by some to have a valid copyright claim because although there
are computational aspects, they are closely intertwined with creative
aspects (e.g. a race's description and its abilities). Whether this
coupling means that the rules therefore can be copyrighted, or whether
it means that the creative aspects can't be copyrighted because of the
rules, is open for interpretation.

From what I understand of Spellcast, it's possible that the "proper"
spells might be copyrightable entities since they're human generated
(unless you can discover some sort of mathematical relation).

I don't believe that this metric (of human vs. computationally
generated) has ever been tested in court, but it's a rule of thumb used
several times on OGF-L, and it also makes sense to me personally: The
computation part of a game would be patented, but the "data" -- that is,
tables of spells -- would be copyrighted.

OTOH you can make a game very similar to Spellcast but with different
spells, and you're legally in the clear (that doesn't mean you won't be
sued -- it means you're likely to win any such suit).
Joe Wreschnig <piman@sacredchao.net>

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: This is a digitally signed message part

Reply to: