Copyright etc

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Re: Copyright etc

Postby zurn » 11 Oct 2014, 23:38

asudevil wrote:We honestly just don't have that issue. Most of the people here DO GM their own variants (after GM'ing one of the more standard ones)...or people who make them don't care and just want ANYONE to GM it.

And variants that are found from other sites are generally credited in the bottom of the map as "created by"...or something.


I noticed that one of the official PlayDiplomacy variants that is available for automated play, "1900", is not properly accredited to Baron Powell. His name doesn't show up on the map or on the variant rules page ( http://www.playdiplomacy.com/help.php?s ... iant_rules ).
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby asudevil » 12 Oct 2014, 00:41

zurn wrote:
asudevil wrote:We honestly just don't have that issue. Most of the people here DO GM their own variants (after GM'ing one of the more standard ones)...or people who make them don't care and just want ANYONE to GM it.

And variants that are found from other sites are generally credited in the bottom of the map as "created by"...or something.


I noticed that one of the official PlayDiplomacy variants that is available for automated play, "1900", is not properly accredited to Baron Powell. His name doesn't show up on the map or on the variant rules page ( http://www.playdiplomacy.com/help.php?s ... iant_rules ).


That's odd....he helped us get it set up here...he's a user of the site even.
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 20 Jul 2016, 21:14

For anyone who'd like to revisit this topic, there was an important lawsuit from a couple years ago that will likely help set precedent in regard to board/card game copyrights. It also establishes a new precedent by which specific groupings of game mechanics that are strongly tied to copyrightable elements can themselves be protected by copyright.

DaVinci Editrice vs. Ziko Games

Short Version:
  1. DaVinci published the card game Bang!.
  2. Ziko published Legends of the Three Kingdoms (LOTK), and it was almost a 100% reskin of Bang!, but in China instead of the Old West.
  3. DaVinci sues for an injunction of sales (denied).
  4. Ziko requests dismissal on grounds that DaVinci cannot show copyright infringement since they claim to have only copied game mechanics (denied!!!).
  5. Ziko also requests dismissal on grounds of unfair competition (granted, but not so relevant to game copyrights).

Though DaVinci ultimately saw their suit dismissed, Judge Lee Rosenthal's discussion of the rules and components of Bang! is actually a pretty fascinating game-changer. The meat of it is this: rules and game mechanics still can't be copyrighted, but that doesn't mean that every rules-related component in a game is automatically fair game for others to copy.

The example Rosenthal uses is Bang!'s character and role cards. In Bang!, the printed characters themselves (their art, their text, etc.) are creative artifacts and thus clearly copyrightable. Ziko doesn't dispute this, since LOTK doesn't use any of that art or text.

However, per Rosenthal, the game mechanics uniquely attached to the characters and roles (which are a sort of character) can also be considered as copyrightable attributes of those characters. The individual mechanics and creative elements are intertwined and clearly reflect a common theme; the mechanics should be considered as part of the character itself. As such, copying those cards' mechanics wholesale means that LOTK's reskinned characters can be considered as infringing on the originals.

It's hard to see this applying specifically to Diplomacy, since most of the game components aren't quite comparable to characters on cards. But this doesn't mean that any reskin of a game is completely fine, particularly one with lots of uniquely themed components.

I would not at all be surprised to see this case being highly influential in game copyright infringement in future.
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby WHSeward » 21 Jul 2016, 18:23

Nopun, are you a lawyer or law student? Just curious. FYI, I'm not.

BGD gives a very different interpretation of this ruling than your post suggests. Here is their conclusion:
BGD wrote:For game designers and publishers, this decision clarifies the limitations of copyright law in protecting card games. Copyright law can be effective in protecting the expression in a game (artwork, appearance), but does not protect rules and game play. Detailed original characters may be protected, but not aspects of the character that exist just to drive the system of play, such as how strong they are or how difficult they are to defeat.

Having read the decision and following BGD, it seems to me that what is new in this decision is its identifying that "card games" today are not all based on 52 card decks in games of old, so rulings based on games using traditional decks can't just be simply applied to new card games, especially when they are in effect role playing games. New analysis is required for new kinds of card games. But the core finding here isn't that game rules/mechanics are now protectable in some expansion of copyright protection, but it is that that expression is protected in the card game space and that includes the characters in the game, their roles, interactions, etc., just as had already been found in the video game space, which is in turn based on what is protectable in more traditional media (literature, film etc).

nopunin10did wrote:But this doesn't mean that any reskin of a game is completely fine, particularly one with lots of uniquely themed components.
But that isn't new and was already the case before DaVinci v Ziko. Tetris v Xio (and others) had already held that. It has always depended on the facts, but it is always expression that is protected under copyright, not rules.

This decision did not find that the characters, rolls, and features in Bang! were protectable, it only ruled that that it was possible for characters to be protected under the law, and therefore it was inappropriate for the judge to dismiss the case. The protectability of the characters would be determined at trial and would depend on the facts. We will never know the result since DaVinci did not go to trial, but my guess is that that Bang! characters were too generic to earn copyright protection on evaluation of the facts.
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 22 Jul 2016, 03:22

WHSeward wrote:Nopun, are you a lawyer or law student? Just curious. FYI, I'm not.


No, I'm not, so I'm definitely not an expert.

I think BGD's interpretation is a complete misread of the text at hand, however. Their summary contains several points where they directly contradict the written text of the opinion. (Which is odd considering they're supposed to be the lawyers, right?)

From Page 21:
The artistic depictions of the Monarch, Minister, Rebel, and Turncoat roles in LOTK clearly
differ visually from the depictions of the corresponding roles in Bang!. But the characteristics and
manner in which the characters interact, not merely the names and pictures used to depict them, are
creative and expressive elements in a role-playing game and are protectable. The roles and interplay
among the characters in LOTK resemble those in Bang! closely enough to give rise to a plausible
infringement claim and defeat the motion to dismiss


In a card game or role-playing game, those designed "interactions" between characters are game mechanics.

The bigger point here, though, is that Ziko's argument was that their characters only copied those game mechanics, and it therefore could not be even considered as infringement. This argument being rejected by Rosenthal is the most important piece of the decision. You're definitely right in saying that the case didn't actually rule on whether they were infringements, but Rosenthal makes it clear that character interactions are still a basis for infringement.

The characters of Bang! and the roles defining the interaction among the players are creative expressions protected by ©. The side-by-side comparison shows substantial similarity between the characters and roles in Bang! and the corresponding characters and roles in LOTK.


BGD also incorrectly state that the judge found Bang!'s characters to be stock characters, even though the mentions of stock characters in the opinion are part of an analysis of prior cases (as on page 15). At no point does Rosenthal try to make a judgement about whether the characters of Bang! are stock or not.

Again, I'm flabbergasted at BGD's takeaway from this case. It's almost like they saw who the winner of the case was (Ziko) and read their argument rather than the judge's actual text.
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby WHSeward » 22 Jul 2016, 03:43

nopunin10did wrote:The bigger point here, though, is that Ziko's argument was that their characters only copied those game mechanics, and it therefore could not be even considered as infringement. This argument being rejected by Rosenthal is the most important piece of the decision.
Well, I think you are misconstruing the "bigger point" (and thereby making it too big) when you then conclude that game mechanics are somehow now covered by copyright law due to DaVinci. That is not the correct conclusion. The judge didn't accept Ziko's argument that "only" game mechanisms were in question. The judge declined to dismiss the case because the infringement in question was about the characters in the game, characters are subject to copyright protection, and characters include their rolls, relationships, abilities, etc. That's it. It doesn't now sweep game mechanisms into copyright law, it just explicitly extends as a point of law protections of characters that you would get in literature, film, or video games to card games too. Whether or not there is enough substance in the card game to make the characters in question protectable becomes a finding of fact for a jury, and not subject to decision by a judge.

Anyway, we should probably leave it to the real lawyers. ;)
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 22 Jul 2016, 03:52

WHSeward wrote:
nopunin10did wrote:The bigger point here, though, is that Ziko's argument was that their characters only copied those game mechanics, and it therefore could not be even considered as infringement. This argument being rejected by Rosenthal is the most important piece of the decision.
Well, I think you are misconstruing the "bigger point" (and thereby making it too big) when you then conclude that game mechanics are somehow now covered by copyright law due to DaVinci. That is not the correct conclusion. The judge didn't accept Ziko's argument that "only" game mechanisms were in question. The judge declined to dismiss the case because the infringement in question was about the characters in the game, characters are subject to copyright protection, and characters include their rolls, relationships, abilities, etc. That's it. It doesn't now sweep game mechanisms into copyright law, it just explicitly extends as a point of law protections of characters that you would get in literature, film, or video games to card games too. Whether or not there is enough substance in the card game to make the characters in question protectable becomes a finding of fact for a jury, and not subject to decision by a judge.


I'm probably making my point clumsily. You're right in saying the judge didn't outright say that game mechanics are copyrightable. However, those characters are unquestionably copyrightable.

The point I'm trying to make is that the basis for comparison which Rosenthal uses are those "interactions" and "attributes." Those character attributes are themselves a type of game mechanic.

It's not that the mechanics are copyright-protected, but that they are an intrinsic part of something else in the game that is protected, and that they can be used as a basis for comparison when determining infringement.
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Re: Copyright etc

Postby WHSeward » 22 Jul 2016, 07:36

Yeah, I think your last post is getting it right except for this bit:
nopunin10did wrote:However, those characters are unquestionably copyrightable.
That is not right. Characters may be protected under copyright. Whether or not those characters [in Bang!] are protectable is a question to be answered by a finder of fact, i.e. a jury. My guess is that they would not be protected if the case proceeded. But the judge in refusing to dismiss isn't making a finding of fact, merely finding as a point of law that characters might be protectable and therefore the suit should not be dismissed.
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