Homebrewed Dune CG and Intellectual Property

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Greg 1

Some Guy
Validated User
#1
I'm toying with a homebrewed deck-building game based on the Dune universe, for free printing and playing. However, I have a few concerns about intellectual property.

1. The setting. Obviously, I don't own the Dune universe. I imagine that this won't be a problem, since the internet is full of games based on other people's universes.

2. The rules. I'm intending to use a heavily modified version of the excellent Shadowfist rules. I imagine that this is ok, since they are freely available online and I'm making no money on this.

3. The cards. Many of the cards are lifted almost directly from Shadowfist (because hey, it works so well!) and given new costs and resource conditions. I'm planning on pointing this out in the rules, but not crediting each card individually. Again, I'm assuming that this is ok, because I'm making no money and the card information is freely available online.

4. The art. The original plan was for NO ART, since I don't have the rights to any art. However, I see that other people who make free games use loads of art that they have no right no and nobody seems to care. So I'm thinking of just ripping pictures from the net willy-nilly.

Thoughts?
 

Ratman_tf

W.A.R.P.
Validated User
#2
Don't be one of the sticky fingers who lifts art without paying for it. There's a decent amount of cheap stock art available on places like rpgnow, if you want art. (Tho most of it is in B&W)

When I made my Transformers RPG, I put an art free version for dowload on the web, as a completely fan based free thing. My personal version, I have inserted lifted art from various sources. But I don't share because I don't have the rights to the art.
 

dth

Registered User
Validated User
#3
I'm torn on this one. I've made loads of fan made stuff and used art lifted from the internet. I've never once charged for or otherwise profited from my homebrew stuff (in fact, the one time someone tried to sell some of my Talisman homebrew stuff, I totally set eBay on them).

My feelings are that as long as you give credit where credit is due and you aren't profiting in anyway (even so far as putting the stuff up on your webspace and then having advertising there), I have no moral qualms about it.

YMMV of course and I completely understand Ratman's POV. Don't be a pirate.
 

Steve Conan Trustrum

Head Misfit
Validated User
#5
1. It doesn't matter that other people's fictions appear in games on the Internet. Those people could have Internet policies that allow for it, could not be aware of those games, could not be properly enforcing their copyright and trademark claims, couldn't care, etc. What other IPs let other people get away with has nothing to do with what Herbert's estate will let YOU get away with or stop YOU from doing if they find out you're using their IP. If there is an active license to another CCG game, your chances of getting into trouble skyrocket because it can easily be claimed that your game has a high potential to inflict financial damages on the value of that license.

2. Contact the owner of the Shadowfist rules. Them putting their rules online, for free or otherwise, has nothing to do with them opening them up for other people to use. Sure, no rule mechanics can be patented or copyright protected, but that would mean you can use the mechanics but would have to entirely rewrite their presentation. They are merely choosing an online, digitial medium that is freely accessible in order to distribute their rules as they desire, in a method they control. That does not, in any way, shape or form, constitute opening it up for third party use unless they have somewhere also said "hey guys and gals of the Internet, here are our rules! Use them to make your own games and such!", or offer licensing or the like.

Also, the idea that you're not making any money from using someone else's copyright is a myth -- although infringing on someone's copyright for profit can increase the penalties (you may be called upon to pay the copyright owner what you've made, for example), selling the material you are using from someone else's copyright is not actually required in order for infringement to take place.

3. Again, your assumptions are wrong. You're violating their copyright by using their graphic design work without permission. I've not seen the cards, so trademarks may also be involved. Also, as previously mentioned, not charging for what you're creating has nothing to do with copyright violation. You'd still be infringing and opening yourself up to litigation on a front separate from that of infringing on their rules.

4. This is also copyright infringement. Art on the Internet is protected by copyright by default as soon as it is posted and someone's displaying of it does not give you permission to use it. If you manage to resolve steps 1 to 3 without getting into legal trouble, you're probably better off looking into some artist related forums and posting your project idea to see if any artists fancy it and are willing to contribute art, or go with paid stock art services.

Overall, the problem is your plan to distribute it. If you were going to make this game for use by yourself and your friends you'd almost certainly be okay because the chances of any copyright owner finding out is only marginally higher than nil. The fact that you plan to distribute something -- even if it is for free -- that uses IP owned by multiple sources means you are opening yourself up to litigation on multiple fronts. Asking the IP holders what their official fan-oriented Internet policies are and/or for direct permission (including the individual artists you plan on taking art from) is going to be required for what you are planning unless you want to expose your throat to the wolves. You also need to keep in mind that, according to how digital copyrights work (which will come into play if you are distributing digital copies of your game) is that if someone ends up going after you you can be held accountable for EVERY free download of your game, as the DMCA holds one accountable for every instance of the media transferring between storage means.
 

Greg 1

Some Guy
Validated User
#6
Steve, I appreciate all the work you put into offering me advice, but it is only fair to tell you that it is probably not a good use of your time. In my opinion, your take tends not to be objective and I almost never read your posts. This includes the one above. If you want to keep posting to the thread in order to interact with other people, that's your business, obviously, but please don't do it on my account.
 

Steve Conan Trustrum

Head Misfit
Validated User
#7
Steve, I appreciate all the work you put into offering me advice, but it is only fair to tell you that it is probably not a good use of your time. In my opinion, your take tends not to be objective and I almost never read your posts. This includes the one above. If you want to keep posting to the thread in order to interact with other people, that's your business, obviously, but please don't do it on my account.
Ummmmmmm ...

wow.

Since you're choosing to ignore the only detailed advice yet given to you, from someone in publishing no less, you may want to check out the following link to get an "objective" take on how loosy-goosy the Herbert estate is with its IP.

http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2009/04/enforcers-of-dune.html
 
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taschoene

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#8
So you're not interested in honest advice? Seriously, every single thing Steve said here is true. And I'll take it up a notch. If you distribute other people's rules text, art, graphic designs, and setting information without permission, you're a thief. Giving "credit" (without getting permission) does not change that fact. Not making money off the product doesn't change that. Nor does the fact that there are many other thieves on the Internet.
 

Alex_P

the cat respecter
Validated User
#9
1. This really varies based on the "property". Take a look around the fan community and see what other people do. Burning Sands: Jihad (free Burning Wheel supplement) definitely took a "serial numbers filed off" approach; it acknowledges being inspired by Dune in the text, but it's very much not straight-up Dune. The republished Dune board game is doing that as well, rebranding the setting as Twilight Imperium. So, my assumption is that you shouldn't use Dune straight-up because you'll have problems.

2. Freedom to redistribute does not imply freedom to make derivative work. Some authors who give away their work really don't want other folks remixing their work in this fashion. You should definitely check.

3. If you're prominently acknowledging the fact that you're lifting the game mechanics wholesale (and the creator of the original work is okay with this, see above), I don't think crediting each individual card is necessary.

4. This isn't legal advice. This is cultural-mores advice. As far as I can tell, the convention in design-your-own-cards/games circles is to always credit the artist. For instance, here's a make-your-own-Magic-card forum game; doesn't look like they ask for permission, but they do put art credits on everything (sometimes you'll end up with silly stuff like "xX_Batman_Xx at DeviantArt", but c'est la vie). You should, at the very least, do the same. Also, be fully prepared for some artists to ask you to take down their stuff; if they do, don't argue with them, just do it immediately and graciously.

-- Alex
 
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Bookwrack

Gazer
Validated User
#10
This was something I heard a wise man say once, so you should read it and take it to heart.

1. It doesn't matter that other people's fictions appear in games on the Internet. Those people could have Internet policies that allow for it, could not be aware of those games, could not be properly enforcing their copyright and trademark claims, couldn't care, etc. What other IPs let other people get away with has nothing to do with what Herbert's estate will let YOU get away with or stop YOU from doing if they find out you're using their IP. If there is an active license to another CCG game, your chances of getting into trouble skyrocket because it can easily be claimed that your game has a high potential to inflict financial damages on the value of that license.

2. Contact the owner of the Shadowfist rules. Them putting their rules online, for free or otherwise, has nothing to do with them opening them up for other people to use. Sure, no rule mechanics can be patented or copyright protected, but that would mean you can use the mechanics but would have to entirely rewrite their presentation. They are merely choosing an online, digitial medium that is freely accessible in order to distribute their rules as they desire, in a method they control. That does not, in any way, shape or form, constitute opening it up for third party use unless they have somewhere also said "hey guys and gals of the Internet, here are our rules! Use them to make your own games and such!", or offer licensing or the like.

Also, the idea that you're not making any money from using someone else's copyright is a myth -- although infringing on someone's copyright for profit can increase the penalties (you may be called upon to pay the copyright owner what you've made, for example), selling the material you are using from someone else's copyright is not actually required in order for infringement to take place.

3. Again, your assumptions are wrong. You're violating their copyright by using their graphic design work without permission. I've not seen the cards, so trademarks may also be involved. Also, as previously mentioned, not charging for what you're creating has nothing to do with copyright violation. You'd still be infringing and opening yourself up to litigation on a front separate from that of infringing on their rules.

4. This is also copyright infringement. Art on the Internet is protected by copyright by default as soon as it is posted and someone's displaying of it does not give you permission to use it. If you manage to resolve steps 1 to 3 without getting into legal trouble, you're probably better off looking into some artist related forums and posting your project idea to see if any artists fancy it and are willing to contribute art, or go with paid stock art services.

Overall, the problem is your plan to distribute it. If you were going to make this game for use by yourself and your friends you'd almost certainly be okay because the chances of any copyright owner finding out is only marginally higher than nil. The fact that you plan to distribute something -- even if it is for free -- that uses IP owned by multiple sources means you are opening yourself up to litigation on multiple fronts. Asking the IP holders what their official fan-oriented Internet policies are and/or for direct permission (including the individual artists you plan on taking art from) is going to be required for what you are planning unless you want to expose your throat to the wolves. You also need to keep in mind that, according to how digital copyrights work (which will come into play if you are distributing digital copies of your game) is that if someone ends up going after you you can be held accountable for EVERY free download of your game, as the DMCA holds one accountable for every instance of the media transferring between storage means.
 
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