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Re: (TFT) Appropriate use of copyrighted material

Brett Slocum at slocum@deliverator.io.com on 12/27/98 10:53 AM said:

>In discussions with someone else the question of the use of procedures 
>from a 
>game in developing a program that duplicates said game came up. Since 
>covers the textual material of the game, and trademark covers the name of 
>game, and the processes and procedures of the game are covered by patent 
>would it be legal to write a computer game of, say, Melee, not call it Melee 
>or use the text of the game, but use the 'rules' of Melee in the game, 
>since it 
>is very unlikely that a publisher would patent those rules (except for 
>of the Coast)?

Nope. Not legal at all. (Insert standard "I'm not a lawyer - your mileage 
may vary" disclaimer here.)

Copyright protection extends to "derivative" works, which would probably 
be held to include a computer game that had the same "rules" as Melee, 
whether you called it that or not. A lot depends on the actual 
implementation of the game from the player's point of view, and the 
underlying mechanics by which the computer game operates. If the program 
simply encodes the rules of Melee (die rolls, combat options, weapon 
tables, damage amounts, etc.) under different names, it would probably be 
found to be a "derivative work".

But my real question is, why would you WANT to appropriate Melee (or any 
game by another designer) for a computer-based game by filing the serial 
numbers off, even if it was legal to do so?

#1: Profiting from someone else's work and putting your name on it, even 
if you can get away with it, is morally reprehensible.

#2: A good computer game should be more than a translation of a board 
game. It should take advantage of what a computer does well (number 
crunching, remembering things, fast calculation, graphic display) to 
enhance the experience. Why computerize the roll of three six-sided dice 
to resolve combat when you can let the computer instantly figure in any 
number of factors and create a more detailed and responsive result (with 
some appropriate randomization for unpredictablity and flavor) that is 
invisible to the user and just as easy to play? It would make SENSE if 
you were using the computer game engine to play off of the reputation and 
enhance the play value of a popular game system you already owned. That's 
why the computer games of Monopoly and such are so popular. But if you 
cannot USE the famous trademark or take advantage of the crossover 
promotion between a board game and a computer version of that game, 
what's the point? Why not just create an ORIGINAL computer game that uses 
the strengths of the medium?

Guy McLimore - guymc@evansville.net
MicroTactix Games - http://welcome.to/microtactix
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