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Copyright issuses?

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I'm new to this board so please excuse me if this seems like a stupid question. How can I make sure no one will swipe my idea for my board game? Does this happen? Is there anyway to prevent this? I just wanted to ask to be safe then sorry.

Joined: 08/03/2008
Copyright issuses?

Your question isn't at all stupid, but it is somewhat common. You should do a search of the forums for the words "copyright" and "patent", and you'll find probably several discussions about this topic in the archives.

Basically, the conventional wisdom here is that it's pretty unlikely that anyone is going to steal your idea. As most of us can attest to, we don't need other people's ideas -- we have no shortage of our own. For someone who doesn't have any ideas, they're not likely to have the design skills to take your idea, finish it, and bring it to market. That is a LOT of work, and there isn't all that much money to be made, so it's hard to imagine anyone taking your ball and running with it.

That's not to say you should blab your idea left and right; if you've got something that is original and that you've put a lot of work into, then use some discretion on who you reveal it to. But neither, I don't think, should you be hyper secretive, and make anyone who sees it sign a Non-Disclosure agreement and such.

You can't really copyright a game system; you can copyright the artwork and the rulebook, but not the rules that the game contains. You can patent your game if it contains a gizmo or something, but I don't think it's ever worth the expense. Patents cost a lot, and it's unlikely that you'll make enough money off of your game to make it worth your while to do so.

Good luck working on your game, and do check the forum archives for more detailed discussion of this topic -- it comes up a lot, and quite understandably; your concern and caution are very reasonable. Just don't let them turn into paranoia that cripples your design from ever getting off the ground. You'll need to show it to other people at some point, just make sure they're the right people!


Joined: 12/31/1969
Copyright issuses?

Just to chime in here, I also find that many ideas evolve in a game, and there is a huge chasm between coming up with an idea and actually implementing it.

It seems to me that whatever you produce will have been performed a thousand times over in its most basic form. For example, rolling dice, moving pawns, playing cards, picking cards and so on.

To me the game that you actually play is not the ideas but the concrete realization of the ideas embodied in the rules, the pieces, board and so on. And if the game is any good, the ideas are distilled to their bare essentials and made to complement and support each other into a coherent whole.

The only real uniqueness a game can have (and this is difficult) is for all the rolling of dice, the picking up of cards and so on be organized in meaningful novel fashion. The novel part that makes a game unique is not in the basics itself but by the way the basics are arranged into a playable and entertaining fashion.

As an example, the "Chariots of War" game I put in the GDW has changed fairly significantly and is still evolving. The final end product will in spirit be close to what I orginally presented but the actual implementation of it will be quite different.

To me an idea is not something that is final but more of a passing fancy, that if not taken seriously and cultivated, is just an idea and nothing more.

For me at least, in the evolving stages of the game I do not worry if the ideas as such will be stolen as it is like a person stealing a half prepared recipe -- you get an idea of the final product but it not exactly something you work with or really enjoy unless you yourself spend time to work on it.

Like jwarrend said, there's not much money in the vast, vast majority of boardgames out there. If people are going to go with a half-prepared recipe and try to make something out of it, I say let them go for it. More often than not they'll probably just end up with having food on their face.

To me it is vitally important to get a lot of feedback at the early stages of the game and refine it. Feedback is a great way to make your game better and you can't get feedback unless you share your game.


Copyright issuses?

"half-prepared recipe and try to make something out of it"

I thought you were gonna say "bake something out of it"...

Oh well... :)

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