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What hapens if I invent variation on owned game?

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boardgameguru
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What happens if I invent a variation on a famous published game?

Can I get the publishers to give me royalties if they like it and publish it?

Foe example Jenga( I have no invention variation on this just an example)

metzgerism
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boardgameguru wrote:What

boardgameguru wrote:
What happens if I invent a variation on a famous published game?

Can I get the publishers to give me royalties if they like it and publish it?

Foe example Jenga( I have no invention variation on this just an example)


I don't know of anything offhand, but I know that the Monopoly Speed Die (an element of the expanded Mega Monopoly game) is basically this. If this was a fan-made creation, I'd bet it was either 'stolen' or a flat rate was given - after all, Monopoly with the Speed Die can be found in every freaking chain department or drug store today.

Unfortunately for you, your mention of Jenga has spurred on an idea in my head.

scifiantihero
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Interesting Question.

What do you mean, exactly?

I imagine designing an entire set of Magic cards would get a different reaction than "designing" Harry Potter Monopoly.

Go Directly to detention with Snape. Do not pass GO. Do not collect 200 sickles.

(I may be slightly excited to be going to a Magic tournament this afternoon with the new Harry Potter movie after.)

I am not sure about the gaming industry, but generally when there is room for profit somewhere, the money guys in charge have already made plans for making it. I would imagine that games that are popular enough or good enough to warrant more titles, already have someone working on those follow-ups.

Thinking about my two examples, I'd bet that Parker Brothers wouldn't be too impressed with another monopoly variant, and I would extend that bet to any game that was merely a logical extension or a rehash of an existing title.

Wizards of the Coast offered an internship a couple years back, if I remember correctly, to the person who could most rigorously demonstrate his or her knowledge of the game.

Reading some of the threads here about contracts, companies and such makes me wonder a little more about the process of buying someone's game, and what companies do when they think there may be more potential for the product than one game (do they even think that way?) But to tie that in to your question, finding out whether the property had reverted back to the designer, or was owned by a big company, or was public domain would probably be a good start!

(Design a Jenga Variant!)

:)

metzgerism
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scifiantihero wrote:What do

scifiantihero wrote:
What do you mean, exactly?

I imagine designing an entire set of Magic cards would get a different reaction than "designing" Harry Potter Monopoly.

Go Directly to detention with Snape. Do not pass GO. Do not collect 200 sickles.

(I may be slightly excited to be going to a Magic tournament this afternoon with the new Harry Potter movie after.)

I am not sure about the gaming industry, but generally when there is room for profit somewhere, the money guys in charge have already made plans for making it. I would imagine that games that are popular enough or good enough to warrant more titles, already have someone working on those follow-ups.

Thinking about my two examples, I'd bet that Parker Brothers wouldn't be too impressed with another monopoly variant, and I would extend that bet to any game that was merely a logical extension or a rehash of an existing title.

Wizards of the Coast offered an internship a couple years back, if I remember correctly, to the person who could most rigorously demonstrate his or her knowledge of the game.

Reading some of the threads here about contracts, companies and such makes me wonder a little more about the process of buying someone's game, and what companies do when they think there may be more potential for the product than one game (do they even think that way?) But to tie that in to your question, finding out whether the property had reverted back to the designer, or was owned by a big company, or was public domain would probably be a good start!

(Design a Jenga Variant!)

:)

Yeah those Donkey Kong Jenga games really don't expand on the format.

scifiantihero
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I dunno . . .

You could balance a banana on top, and whoever wins gets to eat it!

boardgameguru
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Explain

Self explanatory really

Got idea for game on a best seller from Hasbro

The thing is if I email them then eventually tell them the idea if they ask for it then they might say OH we got that in the pipeline when they have NOT

OR the individual seeing the email might say it then go get the company to give him her royalties.

metzgerism
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btw, I think that making

btw, I think that making "royalties" on said-product is a pie-in-the-sky dream.
A one-time "finder's fee" kinda thing might be a reality.

apeloverage
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my understanding,

(bearing in mind I'm not a lawyer, nor a game designer), is as follows:

i) you can't copyright rules. So anyone can use anyone's rules for any game.

ii) you can patent the rules of a game - for example the 'tapping' mechanic in Magic is apparently patented - but this doesn't seem to be enforced often if at all.

iii) you can copyright the 'artistic expression' of those rules, including non-obvious terms. So while you could make a game which used exactly the same rules as Monopoly, you couldn't make the board resemble the Monopoly board too much. For example I think the game Ghettopoly was successfully sued for doing this.

iv) you can refer to copyrighted or patented terms. For example you could put out an expansion designed for use with Monopoly, and say so. However you can't use their logos (for example), or give a false impression that they endorse your product. This is the doctrine of 'nominative use'.

v) people often think their ideas for games are more valuable than they really are, and so are more worried about them being stolen, or more hopeful of selling them to a big game company, than they should be.

guildofblades
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Well, your odds of selling

Well, your odds of selling the idea to them are next to nothing. Its a game in their stable already and if they desire add-ons odds are they will turn to the original designer and ask them for it. Otherwise they haven't come to the realization yet that add-ons would even be useful or profitable. Meaning if you contact them, they might (maybe) listen to the idea, think "oh, that's an interesting notion. Too bad we can't do anything with it" and go about their business. Some day in the future, when some brand manager somewhere arrives at the idea that they should publish some add-ons to one of their games, the directive to make it possible will land in the same laps as those people you presented your idea to. At which point, if they remember your idea, they'll likely either just take it and develop something similar in house or run the idea over to the original designer and ask them to do something with it. The odds of you being a part of that loop are nonexistant.

As has been pointed out, rules and game mechanics themselves can not be copyright protected. They may be patented, but that is extremely rare. Artwork can be copyright protected, hence the "look and feel" of a game, ala trade dress, can be somewhat protected.

If all you have is an idea, and an undeveloped and tested one at that, all you have is an idea they can just take. Its EASIER for them to just take it and do as they please than it would be to go through the effort to make a contract with you, then coordinate any part of the design and or development with you. And people will almost always chose the easier option given a chance.

Now, if the game is a stand alone variant, that has "similarities" to the original game, but can be packaged into a self contained game unto intself, and can be branded with its own identity, it would be possible to publish your variant as its own game. And yes, there are certain ways to make the brand comparison of your game vs the orginal.

If you game MUST and ONLY can be played by requiring the use of the original, I would advise against trying to self publish the thing. Because in all likelihood it would be considered a derivative of the original, meaning essentially that your product would not legally be considered to have its own unique intellectual property, but rather merely be an extension of theirs. Meaning they would own it, not you, without any requirement on their part to compensate you.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

simpson
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Quote: What happens if I

Quote:
What happens if I invent a variation on a famous published game? Can I get the publishers to give me royalties if they like it and publish it?

I call dibs on the drinking game variation of every famous published game!
Send royalties directly to me paypal.

simpson

metzgerism
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simpson wrote:Quote: What

simpson wrote:
Quote:
What happens if I invent a variation on a famous published game? Can I get the publishers to give me royalties if they like it and publish it?

I call dibs on the drinking game variation of every famous published game!
Send royalties directly to me paypal.

simpson


Drinking Jenga.

boardgameguru
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?

Some very constructive replies many thanks

I would like to also ask:

What if I publish printed card with own copyright pictures to use in a famous game?
Would that be considered my own copyright and legal to sell for profit etc?

ReneWiersma
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boardgameguru wrote:Some very

boardgameguru wrote:
Some very constructive replies many thanks

I would like to also ask:

What if I publish printed card with own copyright pictures to use in a famous game?
Would that be considered my own copyright and legal to sell for profit etc?

This is legal, as long as you don't use any coprighted images or text, or any trademarks on your card.

larienna
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I design a lot of variants

I design a lot of variants for published games and they are all free and I don't intend to sell them.

Most of the time, from what I read on Steve Jackson's website, publishers do not access game submission which are actually expansion to games they already published.

apeloverage
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guildofblades wrote:If you

guildofblades wrote:
If you game MUST and ONLY can be played by requiring the use of the original, I would advise against trying to self publish the thing. Because in all likelihood it would be considered a derivative of the original, meaning essentially that your product would not legally be considered to have its own unique intellectual property, but rather merely be an extension of theirs. Meaning they would own it, not you, without any requirement on their part to compensate you.

I'm almost certain this is wrong. For example, it would mean that every third-party product made for Dungeons & Dragons would belong to Wizards of the Coast.

Every d20 product says that it "requires a core gamebook from Wizards of the Coast" (or something like that).

apeloverage
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boardgameguru wrote:Some very

boardgameguru wrote:
Some very constructive replies many thanks

I would like to also ask:

What if I publish printed card with own copyright pictures to use in a famous game?
Would that be considered my own copyright and legal to sell for profit etc?

My understanding (again, not a lawyer), is that

i) you can use terms owned by someone else, for example 'Risk'.

ii) you can't use logos or similar intellectual property that isn't necessary to identify the game.

iii) you can't state or imply a relationship with the owners of the game that doesn't exist.

So you could say, for example, "an unofficial expansion for the RISK board game", but you couldn't use the distinctive font that they print 'RISK' in.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_use

guildofblades
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>>I'm almost certain this is

>>I'm almost certain this is wrong. For example, it would mean that every third-party product made for Dungeons & Dragons would belong to Wizards of the Coast.

Every d20 product says that it "requires a core gamebook from Wizards of the Coast" (or something like that).<<

All D20 products were published under license by WOTC using the D20 System license. 4th Edition has ist own new "compatible" game license. As a company that publishes Axis & Allies variants, a Talisman variant, Risk variants and a Titan variant, we are pretty well versed on the topic.

Your item must be able to "stand alone". Of if it can ONLY be used together with some other object, it needs to be generic enough that it can be used on conjunction with objects of multiple different brands. If your item can only be used with one specific brand then its mostly likely going to be get labeled as a derivative of that brand/item. If it were to get so classified in court, your IP effectively becomes theirs. As the court will have ruled it was always theirs and never yours to begin with.

There are, of course, lots of ways to make sure that doesn't happen, but you have to know the possibility exists in order to avoid it.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

boardgameguru
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Card shape

Very helpful again all

Now another question popped into my head which is card shape? As the printed cards are a very specific shape and so would I be able to make the same shape without copyright infringement to sell this unofficial expansion?
However its not THAT unique a shape.

metzgerism
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I don't understand

I don't understand what you're saying.

InvisibleJon
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Please be careful...

boardgameguru wrote:
Very helpful again all

Now another question popped into my head which is card shape? As the printed cards are a very specific shape and so would I be able to make the same shape without copyright infringement to sell this unofficial expansion?
However its not THAT unique a shape.

I've been quiet throughout this thread because I didn't feel like I had anything to offer. Now I have one comment:

Please be careful.

It's clear to me that you're enthusiastic about your project and committed to following it through. I admire and respect your dedication. With this respect comes a desire to not see you get hurt. What could possibly pose a threat? Consider this old European folk saying I just made up: "When you tread on the toes of giants you're not likely to get noticed, but if the giant does notice you, you're in big trouble."

Large companies with well-established intellectual properties and franchises are, tautologically, large. They're much larger than you or me. With size comes money. With money comes lawyers. With lawyers comes risk.

Using the giant metaphor again... The lawyers are the giant's pest-stomping feet. You and me? We're the pests.

Please talk to a real, honest-to-goodness lawyer. The advice on the BGDF is often quite good, especially when it comes to how to publish a product. This is an exceptional community of smart, talented, creative people. However: As far as I know, none of us are lawyers.

I think you need legal advice from a real lawyer. This is the best advice I can give you. It's better than any of my (admittedly well-informed) guesses, theories, or assumptions about trade dress, branding, or fair use.

On top of this, consider whether you could survive (economically, emotionally, and time-wise) a legal battle. Even if you're in the right, my understanding is that going to court is unpleasant and expensive.

That said, I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your venture. I hope you get what you're looking for out of it. Be safe and happy.

Best regards,

Jonathan L.

scifiantihero
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Also . . .

If the original poster simply stated his idea clearly and explained what he was trying to do, I'm sure one of the publishing companies here has knowledge of the laws to give specific answers.

:)

boardgameguru
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Best

Yep this is THE best forum

Now printing Should I print cards in USA or China?
This is single stiff sort of single cares with graphics on

Dralius
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Depends on what you are selling

boardgameguru wrote:
Self explanatory really

Got idea for game on a best seller from Hasbro

The thing is if I email them then eventually tell them the idea if they ask for it then they might say OH we got that in the pipeline when they have NOT

OR the individual seeing the email might say it then go get the company to give him her royalties.


Without prior contact the only way to pitch an idea to Hasbro is to use one of the brokers listed at their site. These people have worked with them for years and will be the first filter deciding if its work submitting. If it’s good they will want Hasbro to publish it because they get a big cut.

boardgameguru wrote:
Some very constructive replies many thanks

I would like to also ask:

What if I publish printed card with own copyright pictures to use in a famous game?
Would that be considered my own copyright and legal to sell for profit etc?

If you use the games name then you are infringing. For example several years ago someone was Selling a Catan storage box without approval from the rights holder of Catan. That was quickly stopped.

If you are determined to go ahead on your own consult a lawyer.

guildofblades
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Card size or shape will have

Card size or shape will have virtually no bearing on whether something is infringing on another copyright or trademark protected property.

YOU GAME MUST BE PLAYABLE ALL BY ITSELF.

Or

IF ITS NOT> THEN IT MUST BE AN ACCESSORY TYPE PRODUCT THAT CAN FEASIBLY (and arguably, arguable in court) BE USED AS AN ACCESSORY TO MULTIPLE DIFFERENT BRANDS.

Period.

Our company publishes Axis & Allies "variants". Lots of them. Though we don't market them as such much anymore. We used to publish a Talisman "variant", though its out of print awaiting an eventual new edition. We published two Risk "variants", neither currently supported by us. And one Titan "variant" still currently in print and supported. Basically variants of 3 Hasbro and one Games Workship games. And yes, in all but one of those cases, we recieved cease and dissist nastygames.

But they were all self contained games, fully playable unto themself, using no components from the games they were doing homage to and they did not claim to be "for" use with or for those games. They were merely games "similar" to in some ways and sharing some common rules (written differently, not copying from their texts), designed to capture a similar play feel and then marketed as "variations of". And while it didn't make some suits happy, that was legal.

But if your product requires there in any shape or form, it will almost certainly be a violation of their intellectual property. As such, I suggest either trying to sell the idea to them or obtaining a low cost license to produce your add-on yourself. Else be content with just playing it amonst friends and give up on it seeing print.

If you are going to play with publishing or selling ANYTHING that has any connection to someone else's intellectual properties, only proceed if you are well versed in copyright and trademark law or have a lawyer you can use that is well versed in such. Proceed at your own peril otherwise.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

dannorder
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guildofblades wrote:YOU GAME

guildofblades wrote:
YOU GAME MUST BE PLAYABLE ALL BY ITSELF.

Or

IF ITS NOT> THEN IT MUST BE AN ACCESSORY TYPE PRODUCT THAT CAN FEASIBLY (and arguably, arguable in court) BE USED AS AN ACCESSORY TO MULTIPLE DIFFERENT BRANDS.

Period.

Well, that may certainly be your belief, but the copyright laws certainly do not back that up.

Third party companies made modules for D&D long before the D20 license existed. Nobody had to use the D20 license if they didn't want to even when that started up. Most publishers simply chose to do so because it allowed use of a logo, which they thought would help sell more copies. Third party companies have made modules for all sorts of other game systems too. Sometimes they go the extra step and sign an agreement so that they can use a logo to promote the game as officially compatible, but many times they did not, as they did not have to. Magazines published modules too.

People also sell accessories for certain automobiles, stereos, computers, etc. that only work with specific models without being authorized to do some by the company that made the original product. It's a well established legal principle that you can sell things that work in combination with other products. You just can't use their trademarks, infringe upon their copyrights, and so forth. Game rules are not copyrightable -- and by that I mean the actual process of playing the game, not the text used to describe how to play. You can't lift text describing rules, but you can make products that use their rules.

The fact that you got cease and desist orders means nothing more than lawyers tried to intimidate you. There are lots of things you can do that are perfectly legal that will get you cease and desist orders from companies that make false legal claims to try to bully their way into getting what they want. For example, there's some greedy crazy woman who will send a cease and desist order and demand payment if you mention Sherlock Holmes in a TV show, etc., despite the fact that the character is in the public domain and even if it were owned by someone it sure wouldn't be her. Someone can even try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. Someone making a claim to ownership doesn't mean they are legally correct, and in all of these cases we know that they are not.

guildofblades
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>>Well, that may certainly be

>>Well, that may certainly be your belief, but the copyright laws certainly do not back that up.<<

Actually, they do. And more importantly even, so do precedents set in court, which is a closer measure of what you might expect if you land in court yourself.

>>Third party companies made modules for D&D long before the D20 license existed. Nobody had to use the D20 license if they didn't want to even when that started up. Most publishers simply chose to do so because it allowed use of a logo, which they thought would help sell more copies. Third party companies have made modules for all sorts of other game systems too. <<

Just because lawsuits do not follow such publications does not make them legal. In most cases, its simply a case of all parties being simply too small to bother with expensive lawyers. When GW and TSR challenged copyright infringements of 3rd party add-ons in the past they have generally won. Besides, if you make an adventure module that just happens to be "compatible" with D&D, but is not directly advertised specifically as compatible with that, as say, compatible with a third party publisher's published rendation of the 3.0 SRD placed into the open gaming license, then your 3rd party module is effectively for use with several different brands and therefore not a derivative of any one.

"Rules" aren't copyright protected. Only the specific presentation of them can be. If you wanted to, you could publish a D&D 4th Edition players handbook with 100% the same rules by simply rewriting all of the text in your own words, avoiding specific trademarks of theirs (Ala, D&D, Dungeon Master, Beholder, etc), using all new art and for good measure, not organizing the chapters/sections of the book in the same order. Basically, the D&D rules expressed differently would be legal to publish.

But...a module printed specifically "for use with" Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, not taking advantage of their new system license that allows such, would almost certainlt be ruled a derivative product if challenged in court and become their IP.

You are right, cease and dessist letters do not mean that you have actually violated another's rights or that they have a case against you. In our cases, neither were the case and so we ignored them and went about our business. A cease and dissist letter simply means they _wish_ you would stop. Large companies often use them when they have no real business doing so, figuring small companies who don't fully know their legal right will fear legal action and bow to the pressure given by the assumed threat of the C&D letter.

Again, a darn good reason that if you ever want to play ball with anything that brushes up with the use of or reference to another's intellectual properties, that you had best know the intellectual property laws on the subject. Don't take my word on. Don't take anyone else's word on it. It would be your butt in a sling if you guessed wrong and the holder of the IP felt threatened enough to take legal action. Best not to "guess" at all, much less guess wrong. Know your rights.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

boardgameguru
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Broke

This is why I dont like brokers and the rules for submission.
ITs not fair to have a BIG cut taken from royalties.
I understand its safe for the companies but its really unfair.

I think I will be safge enough I will have my own graphics artwork printed on card and this is all apart from te shape of the card being the same to fit into the plastic holder and I am not sure this will be cpoyright infringement for the having the same shape card?

guildofblades
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>>I think I will be safge

>>I think I will be safge enough I will have my own graphics artwork printed on card and this is all apart from te shape of the card being the same to fit into the plastic holder and I am not sure this will be cpoyright infringement for the having the same shape card?<<

The same shape? No. Not unless its a highly unusual shape and they somehow got a patent on its function. Otherwise its just a geometric shape and safe to use. Things that could potentially put you at risk of infringment of their IP are:

Using any of their trademarks as your own of as if you had license to do so. There are limited exceptions to this under "Fair Use" doctrin, that I would not suggest you attempt to utilize unless you or your lawyer are very familiar with.

Using any of their artwork.

Copying any of their texts.

Copying the "look and feel" of their design. Otherwise known as trade dress.

Advertising/promoting your game as "For use" with theirs. I'm not actually saying it "can't be" for use with their game, just that its the advertising and promotion of it that'll potentially get you in trouble. Of course, if your item was "designed" to be "Usable" with their product, but not "for use with" and your customers manage to "figure out" the comptaible aspect all on their own. That, of course, is a pretty tricky thing to pull off safely though.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Goup - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com

apeloverage
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guildofblades wrote:If your

guildofblades wrote:
If your item can only be used with one specific brand then its mostly likely going to be get labeled as a derivative of that brand/item. If it were to get so classified in court, your IP effectively becomes theirs. As the court will have ruled it was always theirs and never yours to begin with.

Do you have a link to anything which can demonstrate this? Because if not, I don't think you're right.

Counter-examples include:

i) Goodman Games (owned by a lawyer), who release products labelled as being for 4th edition D&D, without using Wizards' license. Their catalogue is at http://www.goodman-games.com/downloads/Spr09Catalogue.pdf
ii) Judges' Guild (I believe it was), who got sued by TSR and then given a 'special license' when TSR realised they were going to lose.
iii) Third-party cartridges made for the old Atari games machines.

apeloverage
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guildofblades

guildofblades wrote:
Advertising/promoting your game as "For use" with theirs. I'm not actually saying it "can't be" for use with their game, just that its the advertising and promotion of it that'll potentially get you in trouble.

Again, Goodman Games products do this (see the catalogue link above).

The article on 'nominative use' at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/'Nominative_use seems to suggest that you can promote products that way.

apeloverage
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I had a look at

the Wikipedia article on "derivative works" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work )

There is nothing that says that a derivative work belongs to the owners of the work it's derived from.

Counter-intuitively, a work can be both "derivative" and "original" in copyright law (the article is about US copyright law, but there seems to be very little difference from one country to another).

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