The perennial copyright/IP/trademark question

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

As I understand one cannot copyright a game’s mechanics but one could potentially patent them, and can certainly trademark the name of a game and distinctive characters/proper names. The OGL is unnecessary for people re-writing the rules from older editions of D&D (or any other game for that matter) but signing off of the license does provide some measure of protection against malicious litigation. I get the sense that most of TSR’s old lawsuits against GDW, Mayfair, Judges Guild, etc. ended in agreements and dismissals because TSR didn’t want to face a (likely) loss in court and the defendants couldn’t afford the legal fees to defend themselves. Still, the topic of intellectual property, copyrights, and trademarks is endlessly fascinating to me.

Here are some really interesting web sites relating to copyright law:

A librarian’s series on copyright (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6) (part 7) …you may need to just check in now & again on Kol Safran to see if a new installment has been added! I know Mr. Stuhlman, the proprietor of that blog, by reputation as he is fairly active in certain library-related discussion lists. Of course he is not a lawyer, as he warns repeatedly in his posts, but I think he has found some very enlightening examples to ponder.

Perhaps more germane to the gaming community is the US copyright office’s page on copyrighting games. Naturally one should be aware that their is he law as written and the law as decided in courts, and having the law on your side in way protects you from having the bejesus sued out of you by a large enough company who can just outlast your resources… TSR v. Mayfair Games, TSR vs. GDW, etc., etc.

A great deal more is discussed here, although I have not had the time to actually read it yet, apart from part 7, which focuses on D&D-related lawsuits and seems to corroborate my first paragraph above.

And some older info is here, but from what I can tell it looks well-researched and covers particular cases.

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Published in: on March 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Many thanks for posting those links – you saved me days of hunting!


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