1. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Another ? about copyright legalities

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mark_Archibald, Jun 3, 2012.

    The novel I have always dreamed of writing is actually a fan fiction set in an old videogame franchise. The videogame in question has almost zero plot, or storyline, but I'm fascinated with the setting and characters. The franchise has been dead for nearly 10 years, but the development studio that made the videogame is still active. If I were to build a resume, and earn the credentials of a serious author, would they allow me to use their trademarks?

    I have been doing a lot of thinking about writing this project under a unique title. Could the author in this example get in trouble:

    - Say I wanted to write the book version of Grand Theft Auto 4, but wasn't allowed to use any of its trademarks.
    - Instead I change the city where the game takes place to another fictional location.
    - I DO NOT use any names of characters in GTA4, and write characters that DO NOT have similar traits.
    - The plot line has no connections to that of GTA4: different character interactions, different plot twists, different scenes, different ending.

    Would that be fair or foul? Would I have to worry about a lawsuit, or just accusations that I wrote something just like a videogame? I wouldn't be ashamed to say I used a videogame as inspiration seeing as its a different form of media. (a lot of what if's I know :)

    And now that I think about it 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' is extremely similar to the movie 'Scarface' as a matter of fact, the developers of the game admitted this.
     
  2. LeighWilder
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    LeighWilder New Member

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    Well, I highly doubt the company would let you use their trademarks if they are not actively seeking someone to write a book based on their game, but it could never hurt to ask I suppose.

    Changing the setting, names, ect. should be sufficient from a legal point of view if it's as lacking in plot and story as you say.

    There's been a lot of buzz about 50 Shades of Grey which started as a twilight fanfic. It seems to be doing just fine, but apparently evidence of its fanfic origins is disappearing as the author covers her tracks. I dunno if its to avoid lawsuits or just to look like less of an amateur.
     
  3. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    The Twilight books (haven't read them, or 50 Shades of Grey) are hugely popular, and fairly new. Also both of them are categorized as literature. I'm talking using inspiration from a totally different platform of entertainment, and from a game released over 10 years ago. And believe me when I say this game has literally zero plot, or storyline.

    Thanks, now I don't feel like a ripoff!
     
  4. raju
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    raju New Member

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    You may read wikipedia or other such websites and still not get a clear idea on copyright. That was the case with me. I thought I understood about copyright till I read this post of stevepavlina on copyright and intellectual property. If you read first two sub headings in it you would get a clear idea of what can be copyrighted and what becomes a copyright violation.

    In your specific example, you are inspired by the setting of the game which is a general idea as there are many real life cities in that model. However you should uniquely express the setting (city, characters, plots). You may have one of the character similar or small part of the plot similar to gta4. But not everything. Those small similarities are considered as fair use and can also considered as tributes to gta4 as you are inspired by it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you want to understand copyright, go to the source: http://www.copyright.gov/ for US copyright law, similar sites for other countries that are signatory to the Berne Convention.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that...
    and, as for your project, you need to consult a literary attorney for valid legal opinions, not members of a writing site...
     
  7. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    Okay I can give you some direction to your questions about copyright and trademarks. As far as trademarks go I believe it only pertains to graphic logos and symbols, however it can include the names as well. Example is Pepsi-Cola company has the red and blue sphere as it's trademark logo. Toyota owns Scion and the symbols to identify the brands are trademarked.

    As far as writing a fan-fiction version of grand theft auto there are things to consider.

    1. If you are writing directly from the game it is included is copyright infringement. The story line of the game has been written and story boarded by writers, game designers and animators and is a part of the entire game. You would need special written permission from the company as well as the developers in order to use the story line and write it in your own words.

    2. If you are writing your own version of the story and use the game as "inspiration" it is not included as copyright infringement if:
    a. You do not use the direct story line and instead create your own plot.
    b. The city can be the same and the environment can be as well. The characters names need to be changed as well as their traits.
    c. Any trademarks or logos used must be changed. You may describe a vehicle that exists today or make up one yourself. I do believe that using names like Toyota or Mercedes in a novel will not be included as copyright infringement because they are brand names. You are not making money off of the cars, only the story.
    d. Make it your own story or even better make it your own story.

    I would agree with Cognito and read the copyright laws. It differs between art forms and to be honest no idea has been used once. Everything ends up being recycled and artists do have a fear of copying from another artist or another source. I would stick to writing the story as your own story and only use the game as inspiration.
     
  8. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    The BEST person to ask legal questions is a lawyer. You'll get so many varied answers on a forum.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    True. However, every writer really should understand the basics of copyright law.
     
  10. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I agreed, even as an artist you should understand copyright law. It does not hurt to understand the knowledge and then consulting a lawyer about it
     

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