Legality of car, weapon and character lookalikes

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by ggambett, Jun 17, 2009.

  1. ggambett

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    For one of our games we may include real-life weapons (M16, AK47), cars (Ferrari, Lamborghini) and/or famous actors.

    Does anyone know about the legality of using the images and names of each of these? For actors we'd use caricatures and similar, but not exact, names. For example a Michael Douglas caricature would be called Mike.
     
  2. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    Names are definitely no go, for the cars anyway. For guns, it depends on whether it's a trademark or not. As for resemblance, I would guess you're probably going to be fine as long as you're not using actual photos... unless you have a very talented artist working at very high resolution. At typical game resolutions, most cars and guns are probably going to look generic enough that you won't be violating anyone's industrial design copyright.
     
  3. Obscure

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    As Alex said the images may be protected by industrial design copyright and the proper names will almost certainly be trademarks. Using these without permission could lead to a cease and desist or even a court case. I would be especially careful with cars as manufacturers charge a lot for the rights to use their cars in games. Because of this they will have to stop you using them or the publishers who pay will get pissed off.

    Of course if your game is a small indie game and no one notices you might get away with it but it is generally better to steer clear of using real brands.
     
  4. NielsBauer

    NielsBauer New Member

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    I´ve just recently read a legal opinion of an international law form mentioning that like in movies the display of not-software-related trademarks like car brand names etc. is not a "use" of those trademarks. While they are displayed they are not actively making use of the brand value of the trademarks, but just add them to create a more vivid and real environment. I didn´t had the time yet to look into this myself and it might also depend on the circumstances in every case.

    I am having a similiar problem right now with the question whether to use real-life movie names for my game TV Manager.

    From an indie dev point of view though I would not use them without getting them approved by a lawyer.
     
  5. GaiaDreamCreation

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    I think you are safe with the weapons, but I am not totally sure. For the cars, I heard many times that you need permission to use them. For the actors, I am sure that you cannot use them in your game without permission. I do not think that you absolutely need permission to use them. It depends how you use them. Many shows on TV use the actors in parodies and I do not think that they get the permission. Some of them got sued for saying bad thing about the actors and destroying their reputation. If used carefully, it is probably not bad. What I am sure is if you use an actor or car as the main character in your character in your game, then you are breaking the trademark laws the owner has reasons to sue you.
     
  6. Obscure

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    1. It's an opinion - could a small indie put up the money to get that opinion confirmed by a court?
    2. I am sure that opposition lawyers would ague that the use of their designs/trademarks for "creating a more vivid and real environment" is a use.

    I'm not saying that you couldn't win such a case and I certainly wish the law did allow for the use of real world marks when creating real world environments. I just think that exposing yourself to potential legal action you can't afford to fight is a really bad move for a small indie.
     
    #6 Obscure, Jun 18, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2009
  7. KatieL

    Original Member

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    "While they are displayed they are not actively making use of the brand value of the trademarks"

    There is something of a trend in TV shows to remove badges from cars. It's quite odd really; it's clearly a Merc. It has a Merc-badge-shaped gap on the front grille...

    {The was an episode of "The Inbetweeners" the other week where they'd taken the Renault badge off the front, but left it on the back...}

    I can't quite work out what that's about apart from someone being ultra cautious about possible infringement claims.
     
  8. AnthemAudio

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    You definitely need ok from the weapons manufacturer to use weapons names. I know we've had to personally change the names of some to accomodate from time to time. Not for CoD though, they get what they want! ;)
     

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