This is what happens when you use other peoples stuff

I’ve seen a few people on here ask some very good questions about copyright.

Most commonly, they ask things about using things from other games/fandoms. One person wanted to make a Dragonball Z game, another made sprites based off a video game.
Its pretty common, to want to make something based on what you love. If you’re a writer, it’s called Fan Fiction. If you’re a costume designer, its Cosplay. If you’re an artist, its Fan Art.

In most forms, this is usually tolerated by the copyright holders for various reasons.
Its non-commercial (the fan doesn’t make money off it directly), it doesn’t conflict, or take away from the original creation. And, its good for the copyright holder, it potentially exposes them to a larger audience.
But, at any time they desire, the copyright holder can enforce their copyright and have the fan created work taken offline.

Less common, is Fan Video Games.
They exist, but they are rare.
They are usually small little things someone made for fun and released online for free, making no money from it, and not competing with the original.

Or sometimes you just want to use the art from a game for your own.

For the purposes of these courses, and this site, I would almost bet money that you would get away with using sprites from the videogame of your choice, or creating a clone of your favorite game.

The problem is, what happens if your game gets popular. What happens when hundreds of thousands of people download and play it? You might release it for free, but what if you have banner ads on your site, or a paypal donation button?

Thats what happened to the creators of a fan game called Pokemon Uranium.
They spent 9 years developing a full fledged pokemon game, with all new pokemon, bad guys, and towns to explore.
From what I’ve seen of it, this game seriously looked professionally made.

And now its no more. Well, you can probably find it on your bittorrent site of choice, or various file sharing sites, though as the creators say, they cant guarantee it’ll be a legit, virus free copy if you do.

This is why you should never use anyone else’s art (of any kind, 3d models, sprites, music, logos, graphics) without permission (a proper license such as Creative Commons) or base your game off of someone elses game.

Best case scenario if you get caught is you’ve only used some sprites or models, and can replace them and repackage your game. Worst case scenario, you based your entire game off someones else’s copyright, and now you cant do anything with it.


Nice post @chris.claus42 :slight_smile:

Even if you create all your art for yourself, don’t use other people/company names, logos or their intellectual property (IP).

If you doubt someone could be miss leaded to think it is a product from company X or belongs to Game Series Y, you should change your game design.

Being “inspired from” is a vage and mostly valid option but is it safe? This might be decided in a court later on…

(but: all game ideas / mechanics as such are not protectable - fell free to build the next Match3 or 5vs5 FPS Shooter you like. But don’t call it Candy Crusher or use assets from CS:GO)


Great post thanks.

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@GamedevCala makes a very good point.

You can make your own version of any “type” of game. When talking about core mechanics. Your own First Person Shooter, your own Match 3, Your own throw stuff to knock stuff down physics games (Angrybirds was not the original in that field)

You can even make your own game similar to pokemon. Just look at Digimon and YuGiOh. Games where you have creatures, be they organic (pokemon) or digital (digimon and yugioh) are nothing new. But if your game has monsters that you catch and evolve, and store each one in a separate portable container, The Pokemon Company is going to have a pretty solid copyright infringement case against you.

Or you can make a game similar to angry birds (which was “inspired” by Crush the Castle), but do something other than throwing one animal at another animal with a slingshot.

The two important things to keep in mind to avoid any potential trouble are: Dont borrow assets from other games, and Make sure your game doesnt look too much like someone elses game.

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The one series I’ve seen fan games made from pretty extensively is Mega Man. All of them are free, and all of them come with the disclaimer that Capcom holds the original copyright and no infringement is intended. They all pretty much follow the format of the classic Mega Man games - eight robot masters, obtaining weapons when the robot masters are defeated, and proceeding afterwards to some showdown with an ultimate villain (which may or may not be Dr. Wily). So far, I haven’t heard of them having any problems, but maybe Capcom is a little more tolerant with Mega Man than Nintendo is with Pokemon.

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That’s entirely possible.
Its hard to tell if a company is going to take issue with your use of their IP or not.
And they are a lot more likely to ignore it if you dont attempt to make money off of it at all. This doesnt just mean no selling it, in app ads, or in app purchases, it can also mean no banner ads on the site you offer it for download on. But that is no guarantee.

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Yeah, I hear you. I’ve heard of Nintendo taking issue with Let’s Play videos on YouTube, even though, in a way, those essentially amount to free advertising. After all, someone could watch a LP video and decide to go play the game themselves.

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Yeah, I’ve seen articles about that.
That makes no sense to me.
There are a lot of people out there that seem to enjoy watching others play video games, and I’d think it would entice people into trying games they may not have otherwise tried.

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I am going to sue you all for making copies of my Block Breaker :smiley:


And then Ben will sue you for making a copy of his. :smiley:


I claim fair use in an educational setting! :-p

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The problem is, what happens if your block breaker game gets popular? What happens when hundreds of thousands of people download and play it? :wink:


Well in that case, I get super rich, and handle things mafia style. Cement boots, sleeping with the fishes, the whole 9 yards. j/k

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Lol… love it… you have a dark side @chris.claus42 :wink:

Ironically if you check out the Google App Store there are hundreds of block breaker games… most have a slightly different name… brock breaker, block smasher or whatever… they are all effectively clones of Arkanoid. I dont know if there was anythijg before this but in many cases it would be hard to dispute that they werent infringing surely? Some blocks, a ball and a bat…

Laser Defender, many flavours of this too, all pretty much stemming from perhaps defender if side scrolling, space invaders if enemies move across the screen, or Galaxian if vertical scrolling… (probably some older ones before these)…

On the app stores I doubt many indie developers would have the resources to pursue claims against you, unless, their version is the “hit” etc…

Not obviously justifying copying of ideas and so on, but there will always be a lot of similarity between games. When my lad first got his Xbox 360 (I’d not had a console before) one of my first thoughts was the limited number of game genres available. Puzzle. Sports sim. Shoot em up. Racing. Fighting.

I think it can be quite challenging to be revolutionary with a game idea when you take inspiration from other games, and if you have been around since the 80s you will have seen a lot of games!

You can copyright things like Artwork (sprites, graphics, models), music, story, etc.
What you can’t copyright is general gameplay mechanics. Throwing balls at a wall, shooting at incoming aliens or asteroids, tower defense games.

A good rule of thumb is if you can generalize it, you should be safe.

That’s why there are 5000 different First Person Shooters, and 2000 Racing Sims and about a million different puzzle games.

Thats why the creator of Crush The Castle couldn’t do anything about Angry Birds, and the creator of Farmtown couldnt sue the makers of Farmville.

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…wouldn’t it be great if there was actually something that was completely new!

There is, from time to time, at least in video games.
Kerbel Space Program and MineCraft come to mind.

Now, if we’re talking Hollywood, they haven’t had an original idea in about 20 years.


Some companies are more litigious than others. Don’t go near any I.P. owned by Nintendo or King (who blighted the world with Candy Crush) for example because these companies are known to be rabid. Valve, however, has proven themselves to be fairly friendly to fans and should be upheld as a counter example.

I think the moral of the story is this: directly copying assets is never ok, for the rest, be very careful and Google your own idea to see if you’re stepping on someone’s turf.


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