When is an original knockoff too much like the source material for use?

Discussion in 'General Lounge' started by Gabrelik, Mar 21, 2017.

  1. Gabrelik

    Gabrelik Almighty Maker of Sandwiches Veteran

    Messages:
    770
    Likes Received:
    1,281
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    While the title of this thread might imply an oxymoron, let me explain:

    For the sake of argument, a client wishes to include elements in a project which inspire subtle to non-so-subtle homages to known characters. Original artwork, but intended to look like existing characters as a means of instilling nostalgia in a player.

    The question is, even with original work, at what point do you cross a copyright boundary? For example, some of the default artwork in RPG Maker clearly honors known video game characters if you know what you are looking at, but these are vague enough references to be clear of legal issue. How different should an image be in order to be considered clean? As I know this can be a rocky subject, the question is posed purely to garner popular opinion.
     
    #1
  2. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    California
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Legally speaking, I think references are fair game. I recently played the Evoland games, which have an absurd number of deliberate references to old RPGs and adventure games, and I seriously doubt they got permission. Those particular games even had actual famous game items peppering the background, like Mater Sword and such. My guess is they get a free pass since the context of the game is so humorous and referential in nature. Basically, as long as it's clear that you aren't trying to pass the idea off as your own, it's fine.

    Granted, I'm no copyright expert - this is just common knowledge territory. Really, it isn't about how close to the character it is, so much as what your clear intention is. You can't have known characters "guest star" in your game as if it were an official thing, and you can't make them the selling point (i.e. a mash-up game), and you'd best avoid distinct copyrights like their actual names, but you can definitely get super close and be okay. :kaopride:

    This is all a bit rocky territory since it largely depends on whether people bother to prosecute, but generally speaking you get more freedom if it's obvious comedy, parody, homage, etc.
     
    #2
  3. mogwai

    mogwai 1984 Veteran

    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    576
    Location:
    Bassett Nebraska
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    I should go all OC in my MLP game.
     
    #3
  4. HeroLite

    HeroLite stinky weirdo Veteran

    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    yeehaw central
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    WELL i saw an ad for a mobile pokemon knockoff directly use the footage of the whole year countdown thing game freak used when they first announced pokemon sun & moon, so i guess there just ain't any boundaries these days. i don't even think they bothered to hide their blatant theft, it was just straight up charizard in that gameplay sample, hoo jeez.
     
    #4
  5. Gabrelik

    Gabrelik Almighty Maker of Sandwiches Veteran

    Messages:
    770
    Likes Received:
    1,281
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    It does seem to be more rampant now, and I can't help but wonder if people just take advantage of the fact that legal recourse would be costly and time consuming. At least, for small time offenses. I am mostly considering, however, how original artwork might still be considered an infringement? For example, here is a Sonic knockoff that was originally sketched up to be included in a game paying homage to that genre and timeframe. Some obvious changes have been made, but this is clearly still inspired by Sonic. While this drawing is entirely original, the material depicted is clearly not. At what point can you draw that line and make a clear, and legal, differentiation?

    Sonic.png
     
    #5
  6. HeroLite

    HeroLite stinky weirdo Veteran

    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    yeehaw central
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    i don't think it crosses the line until they're actually legit using official artwork from the series. tens of thousands of people are always making fancharacters, but suddenly when a guy uses official pokemon artwork to advertise a party BAM: it's lawsuit time boys.

    i'm serious, it actually happened.
     
    #6
  7. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    California
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    @HeroLite Careful not to confuse legality with results. Just because lots of people get away with something, doesn't mean they're actually allowed to. Copyright stuff is one of those things where you only get in trouble if the people whose work you're violating bother to press charges.

    You know, really, it's probably just best to ask a lawyer or something. This stuff confuses me to no end. :kaoswt:
     
    #7
  8. HeroLite

    HeroLite stinky weirdo Veteran

    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    yeehaw central
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    yeah you have a point. it just really rubs me the wrong way though, there are loads of pokemon fangames out there, some even on the market for cold hard cash, but only one guy got hit with a cease and desist, and he was putting his out there for jack diddly squat, totally free baby. and then this one dude who just wanted to have a party based on a game he loved? wam bam kablammo, full on lawsuit. if they were just going after the easiest people to win from, then fancharacters would be a potential goldmine of lawsuits. i don't understand the logic here. :hswt2:
     
    #8
  9. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    California
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    @HeroLite I can't comment much on that without knowing more about the stories in question. There are lots of potential reasons. Maybe they legitimately didn't know about the others, or maybe those others were made in China or something, where copyright laws differ. Fancharacters are also a grey area, as is fanfiction. :kaoswt2:

    Logic only goes as far as the variables you have access to. You can't connect the dots unless you actually have dots to connect. I don't think any of us really have the full picture when it comes to weird cases like these. :kaosigh:
     
    #9
  10. OwMeEye

    OwMeEye Villager Member

    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    41
    First Language:
    Polish
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    As far as I know, you can't copyright or trademark a style, or a pose. The law works in a wholesome way, but law is also interpretative, subjective, that's what judges are for. Personally, I don't know where I would put the line. Transformative work is considered fair use, but how much you need for your work to be viewed as original or transformative is a bit vague. The longer people create art, the more everything will seem like copied or inspired, even when it is not intended to be so.
     
    #10

Share This Page