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With board games like "Monopoly", "Domino", "Checkers", or "Chess", can game developers make clones and sell them? Also, can I make a clone of ZX Spectrum games? Are there many parts of the game with which can do the same?

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Do you mean legally possible? – The Communist Duck Apr 29 '11 at 13:39
Yes, can I then sell it – Saulius Apr 29 '11 at 13:44
Related… – Tetrad Apr 29 '11 at 14:32
@Saulius, it may be a good idea to mention for which country you are asking. – Hendrik Brummermann Apr 29 '11 at 14:33
I'm from Lithuania – Saulius Apr 29 '11 at 17:10

Lawyer here for a change. You can copy all of gameplay without any issues at all. That is not copyrightable or enforceable. The things that matter are assets - art, sound, music, video, etc. For example if you take ZX game and clone it with your own assets you will be perfectly fine doing that. But if you take some asset and use it in different kind of game all together, it could be enforceable. There are loads of examples of this in the industry, for example first Warcraft basically copied Dune 2 gameplay mechanics and the genre was totally new at the time. For a more recent example - check out Gameloft company, the developer for iphone. What they do is copy successful game ideas as close as possible to the original but without using any art assets from originals. That is their successful business model. They copied games like Halo, Starcraft, World of warcraft and so on with huge success in their field. It is even funny that if you check their wow clone you may see that animations of orcs and their looks are very close to the original.

TL;DR version: As long as you copy gameplay and don't copy any assets (art, music, animation) you are 100% fine.

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This is my understanding of the laws (not a lawyer), but this doesn't stop some companies from pursuing legal action. The Tetris Company has a fairly bloody history of killing Tetris clones; I remember when Tris was pulled from the App Store. Usually devs don't have the legal resources to fight back, even if they are in the right. – Ian Henry Apr 30 '11 at 2:36
@Ian Henry Well with tetris it is very difficult to separate assets and gameplay. For example the plaing field is almost the same in all games, the tetrominos will look exactly the same, no matter how you texture or portray them. And generally there is a fear factor - most people don't know law details and issues and will just give up when they get any notice from copyright holder even if their claims are not following the law. – Dvole Apr 30 '11 at 5:32
This answer is not correct, or at least not internationally. In my answer I indicate some possibilities where it is not legally fine. Additionally I know that as rules can be copyright, an exact rule-for-rule copy of a game may not be allowable. – edA-qa mort-ora-y May 2 '11 at 8:30
@Bane I don't have to prove anything, I will provide my assets and it is a judge call. – Dvole Aug 6 '12 at 16:11

I am not a lawyer.

You've got two separate sets of games.

Chess, checkers, dominoes, etc. are very old - literally thousands of years. They obviously have no copyrights. You can make a chess game and sell it with no problems.

ZX Spectrum games and Monopoly are copyrighted/patented; that is, the game belongs to someone. You would need to seek out the copyright holders (that is, the creator of the ZX Spectrum games or Hasbro, who own Monopoly) to make a version.

You could, however, make a game where you have to buy property and build on them. You could not use Monopoly's names, places, or rules, but something very similar.

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I might also add that if you are sued and you do not have the resources (money, time) to defend yourself, it is 100% irrelevant whether you would win or not.

When I consider the legal ramifications of something, I often ask myself "what is the likelihood that I will get sued if I do this?" as opposed to "if I were sued because of this, would I win?"

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Yeah, a lot of people obsess over fine points of legalities but really if you are just in the ballpark of a hit game by a company with deep pockets you may be creating problems for yourself. Pay attention to history to see if other people doing similar games have been sued, because it really varies from game to game. – jhocking Apr 30 '11 at 11:44
so basically any game company full of money can sue you for any game you have done, even for a game they doesn't have any patent/copyright (just because they want to cause you trouble or because of personal affairs) ? Then, because you are a poor indie gamedev you will have no other choice than cancel/remove your game ? (since it would cost too much...) – tigrou May 3 '12 at 13:28
@tigrou, there are many abuses of our legal system like this. Look at all the software patent issues going on right now, for example. – stephelton May 3 '12 at 16:17

Not a lawyer and you should check with one for assurance.

There should not a problem as long as you don't copy any specific names, things or text since you cannot trademark or copyright gameplay & rules.

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And what about the Touch Table Games copyright, the oldest listed in my previous. – Saulius Apr 29 '11 at 13:37
Unless they were made before "Steamboat Willie", they are for all intents and purposes under unlimited protection. – drxzcl Apr 29 '11 at 13:44
It's true you cannot trademark or copyright gameplay/rules (although technically the rules themselves are indeed under copyright, so just don't copy them verbatim), you can patent gameplay elements as a specific "process". I don't know how common this is, though, but it is something to be aware of. – Kromey Apr 29 '11 at 17:55

This will obviously vary a lot from country to country, but the basic idea is that you can't make an exact clone, but you can make a knock-off version. Board games tend to be covered by two aspects: the copyright on the written rules of the game, the trademarks and copyrights on the visual elements to the game.

The underlying mechanics and gameplay tend not to be covered by any legal protection. However, and this is a damn big however, as certain countries (like the US) offer software patents it seems possible that a company could indeed patent the gameplay itself. However, for popular games the mechanics are usually so common as not likely to be granted such protection.

Mostly however companies protect their brand. If your game does not infringe on their brand you are probably safe. Be careful about copying rules (this also applies to video games) too closely. If you have a game that behaves nearly identical to another but with distinct artwork I think most people would consider it a derivative work, and thus infringing on the original.

So, feel free to replicate a basic gameplay mechanic, but never duplicate graphics and avoid duplicating level-structure.

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Dominoes, checkers, and chess are all ancient games that you can do whatever you want with. Modern games like Monopoly are trickier and the legalities can vary. First off, never copy the names because that is copyrighted. Similarly, change all the graphics because images are protected.

It's usually fine to copy gameplay because that can't be copyrighted, but watch out for patents on hit games. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if the rules of Monopoly are patented.

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patents have limited lifetimes. Monopoly is unchanged for far longer than patents last, so it's certainly patent-free. – Peter Taylor Apr 30 '11 at 8:29
Good point, I'll strike out that part of my answer. – jhocking Apr 30 '11 at 11:39

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