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[Freeciv] Re: copyrights

[Freeciv] Re: copyrights

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To: freeciv@xxxxxxxxxxx
Cc: A A <freepg2@xxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [Freeciv] Re: copyrights
From: "Bobby D. Bryant" <bdbryant@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 14 Apr 2002 10:57:05 -0600

On 2002.04.14 08:48:16 -0600 Per I Mathisen wrote:

> On Sat, 13 Apr 2002, A A wrote:

> > I went throught the mailing list archives and read a
> > huge discussion about copyrights that took place a
> > year and a half ago or so.  I would like to ask if the
> > developers of Freeciv took any action when it comes to
> > copyrights.
> > I read recently that Blizzard is going after the guys
> > who wrote bnetd.  Are we going to see more of this
> > sort of thing?
> (In my view, Blizzard is full of it. I don't think they have a case,
> and
> they seem to be backpedalling fast, perhaps to avoid a countersuit.
> What do I know.)

Notice that if you go to a computer store and look at 100 games you'll 
see that about 95 of them are "clones" of another 5.  And yet the 
gaming industry doesn't seem to be wracked with lawsuits.

Whatever copyright law does say, it's going to say the same thing 
whether you're talking about free games or commercial games.  The only 
difference is that the makers of commercial games can afford better 
lawyers, and some may be tempted to take advantage of that fact to 
bully around the developers of free software.  Historically, that 
bullying hasn't been working very well, AFAIK.

Make sure you aren't using any actual components from any commercial 
game (graphics, sounds, etc.), and make sure your title and logo aren't 
too similar to any commercial game either.  IANAL, but I don't think 
they've got much grounds to go after you beyond that.

If someone does go after you, you can probably cave in without expense 
to yourself by changing whatever they complain about in a new release 
of your game, removing the old releases from your distribution site, 
and posting a prominent message requesting that everyone download the 
new version.

If someone goes after you and you don't want to cave in you should 
probably write the Electronic Frontier Foundation for advice, and also 
submit a story to Slashdot to stir up the rabble and see if that won't 
make them back off in order to avoid an unprofitable PR disaster.

Perhaps a good object lesson is to observe that TSR used "halfling" 
instead of "hobbit" in their very high profile D&D/AD&D game materials, 
because "hobbit", being the name of a novel, was a trademark of the 
Tolkien estate.  Everyone knew that "halfling" was just another word 
for "hobbit", but they got away with it anyway.

However, there are other issues such as "look and feel" and "trade 
dress" that have gotten people in trouble in the past.  But presumably 
your own game isn't such a close clone that anyone would mistake it for 
the commercial version when playing it.

Finally, my personal advice is to not be content with a clone.  Once 
you get your basic game working, fix the things that you think they did 
wrong and start adding features that you think they should have 
offered.  Pretty soon your game won't be any closer to theirs than "in 
the same genre", and it will be a better game as well.

Bobby Bryant
Austin, Texas

p.s. - So... when can we play your game?

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