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    Avatar photoNorthern Monkey

    Hi all

    My mate has come up with a decent idea for a game, he’s gone so far as to home produce a rules booklet, and the necessary accessories, he has contacted a few companies and some interest has been shown. He wants to make a Facebook page promoting the game, but is concerned about protecting the game from being copied, I’ve always believed that rules can not be Copyrighted, but what about the concept/accessories or what other legal protection is there for someone in this position, he is UK based as im sure that will make a difference.

    My attempt at a Blog: http://ablogofwar.blogspot.co.uk/

    Avatar photoAngel Barracks

    I’ve always believed that rules can not be Copyrighted,

    That is my impression.
    Rules are a way of doing something and I don’t think you can claim copyright or ownership on a method?
    Assuming you mean rules as in mechanics.
    If you can, then I baggsy copyright on walking the way you do.
    I order you cease walking in your style or I will sue!


    By concept do you mean background fluff?

    Avatar photoNorthern Monkey


    , please don’t stop me walking this way its took me years to master my Manc swagger!

    And more seriously, its not so much background, the game has a collectible theme, plus it comes with constructible pre-painted pieces?

    My attempt at a Blog: http://ablogofwar.blogspot.co.uk/

    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    Game mechanics can not be placed under copyright.  However, the rules as written can be.  That way folks can’t simply copy off a facebook page or a rules booklet and sell it as their own.  If they take the game mechanics and rewrite their own rules book in their own words, then that kind of ‘copying’ isn’t protected by copyright.  Even using any part of your rule book in the new version is a violation of copyright laws.  However, as with games like Monopoly or Risk, there is word recognition, unique tag lines, titles  and such that can also be associated with that rules set and placed under copyright.   Taylor Swift is at the moment trying to place her tag line “That’s Hot!” under copyright. Good luck with that…

    I would definitely stick a copyright symbol, name and date on the rules book and Facebook pages.  The simplest, least expensive way to ‘copyright’ something that will hold up in a any suit is to make several copies [three or more], stick them in envelopes and journey down to your local Post Office and mail them to yourself.  Make sure that the Post Office cancels the stamp AND stamps on the envelope seal to show later that it hasn’t been opened and that you had the material on that date… obviously before anyone else had it.

    Of course, you can go through the process of officially copyrighting the material.  Not too involved, but it will cost more than postage.




    Avatar photoNorthern Monkey

    thanks i’ll pass that info on to him, seems like a relatively easy/cheap way of gaining some protection

    My attempt at a Blog: http://ablogofwar.blogspot.co.uk/

    Avatar photoAlvin Molethrottler

    Hi, before you go with “poor man’s copyright” you might want to check this out:



    Avatar photoMcLaddie


    Yep. I’m not sure what differences there might be between the U.S. and England, so that’s site is good information.  The one time I had a copyright challenge here in the U.S., the ‘poor man’s’ approach with mailed envelopes and published copyrights on the materials was enough for the courts here to established who had what when.

    But that’s why you 1. stamp the seal on several copies and 2. post copyright dates on your materials and webpages etc.  And no, it’s not as established as going through the copyright process with the government…

    Avatar photoNorm S

    I would tend to avoid doing a Facebook page or other publicity while exploring options with companies. What is your friends copyright worry right now, will be the companies worry 6 months down the line and they may not appreciate the ‘early disclosure’. It does of course depend what their interest is at this stage.

    Regardless, the protection of copyright can be an expensive thing and probably a minefield – i.e what is being protected, the rulebook as written, one or more mechanics, one or more ideas or  a created world like the Star Trek universe? – which bit gets breached, to what degree and is it in anyway something that can be truly owned or is really new.

    There are quite a lot of young game companies as well as established ones. I think in the first instance, I would find a couple of companies and speak with them about the pitfalls of game copyright and submission. Your friend could do with hearing from someone who has recently travelled the same learning curve and then perhaps an established company who may have had a very real copyright breach experience and can give a ‘real world’ view.

    Your friend could protect his provenance by depositing a sealed set of rules, ideas and game parts etc with the bank or solicitors.

    Good luck to him – an exciting time no doubt.


    Avatar photoMike

    I wonder if uploading a copy to a server would help?
    There would be a digital signature of the time and date as to the upload I presume?

    Avatar photoBandit

    My non-legal, uneducated, poorly informed perspective on this is that “protecting” something you write or a design you make falls into two categories:

    1. Legal

    2. Practical

    The legal consideration is what legal protections you can take but law is reactionary, first someone breaks it, then you respond. Thus, the only thing that prevents someone from breaking it is the threat of your response. If you are not prepared to respond then there is no consequence and it matters little what protections you have sought out.

    The practical consideration is that people can take / copy / steal what you create. They can. The largest companies in the world still have their designs and products counterfeited so there isn’t anything that one can do to stop that possibility. That is the reality of the photocopier, the scanner, PDFs, digital photography, etc… It has really always been possible, it has gotten easier and even in the age of “DRM-this” and “DRM-that” those are just inconveniences, all locks can be broken. You can minimize this by pricing your product fairly or aggressively and by sponsoring general goodwill. In general, you can minimize theft by trying to make people want to buy your product.

    Will someone else copy and paste parts of a game you designed, pay for a print run and start selling it? They can. But you’ve gotta ask yourself how likely it is. We aren’t designing iPhones so the ecosystem is relatively a niche.

    Sorry if any of that sounded preachy, I guess my perspective is that worrying about it may be justified but if it is not something that you can exert much control over, it may be good to temper the worrying and accept the gamble.

    Regarding the Facebook page, I’d actually advocate promoting his idea, but there is a difference between promoting it and making it available. If you go to The Wargaming Company website you’ll see a lot of information describing how ESR works and what it does. But you couldn’t produce a copy of ESR from that and sell it.


    The Bandit

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    There’s a bit of precedent in the RPG world, where people have taken out of print RPG’s, reworded them, removed references to trademarked terms and then published them.

    That doesn’t stop someone from hassling you legally if you were to rewrite 40K and sell your “BattleMace 39.111” with “Star Soldiers” and “Korks” of course.

    If serious money is on the table, talk to a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property. I imagine most of the rest of us just make do.

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