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Re: (TFT) Appropriate use of copyrighted material

At 08:47 AM 12/28/98 -0600, you wrote:
>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.

Critical point:

The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is
true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or
methods for playing it. ... Copyright protection does not extend to any
idea, system, [or] method, ... involved in the ... playing of a game.

Those aren't my words -- they're a slightly edited quote from the Library
of Congress, the folks who administer copyrights. You can read the whole
thing on the Library of Congress website at

>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".

No. The method of playing a game -- i.e., the rules themselves -- very
explicitly CANNOT be copyrighted. Yes, for what it's worth, this means that
you legally could write a game of your own that uses exactly the rules from
AD&D, but writes them up in different words. Of course, since the US legal
system works on the basis of who has the most money and the best lawyer,
rather than who is in the right under the law, you wouldn't actually be
able to get away with it when you went up against WoTSRC's money, but in
principle you'd still be right.

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

We all profit from other people's work. No designer is an island. I'm not
going to open up the very squirmy can of worms associated with when and if
law and ethics correspond on this matter. At the very least, however,
creating something that is merely a conversion of someone else's work, even
though it is legal, is at best lazy.

>#2: A good computer game should be more than a translation of a board 

Precisely. A tabletop game is optimized to run on a system of humans and
dice. A computer game is optimized to run on a system of silicon and
electrons. You have to make a set of trade-offs for either medium. Not only
are the trade-offs very different, but some of the elements that are
critical to the function of the game in one medium would be fatal to it in
the other, and many of them would be very, very sub-optimal.

If you want to write a computer game, write a computer game. Write a good
computer game. TFT is a decent set of tabletop game rules -- but it is good
for reasons that would make it a fairly poor core for a computer game.

-- Jean

   Wintertree Software

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