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I have a project to be accomplished in a distant future about a soccer game.
I´ve read that you can´t feature the actual national teams uniforms without getting permission from FIFA.
Is this only for special designs or for jerseys which are a single colour (most of them) too?
Can you copyright a color? From what I know, most copyright laws don´t allow for a single colour or color combinations to be registered, but maybe in the context of a specific sport and specific teams it is allowed.

PS: thanks, when and if this gets commercially serious, I will seek legal advice.
To be more precise, by presenting a team as Germany with a white shirt and black pants, no logo, no real player names and no real stadiums, do you think that would be considered a copyright infringement?

PS2: the RGB knob approach is what I thought of for teams created by each user. But also though it would be nice to have a special competition which would be a world cup.

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Get a lawyer. You can be sued for anything. –  Noctrine Jul 17 '11 at 20:04
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@Noctrine (+1): Although there are many frivolous law suits that either get settled (many of these suits are probably launched for this purpose), dropped, or thrown out of court, your concern is definitely justified because even if you win you still have to spend a lot of time, energy, and money defending yourself. It's a shame that this happens because it probably does scare a lot of people away from doing good and interesting things. =( –  Randolf Richardson Jul 17 '11 at 23:07
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Spending 30 minutes with a lawyer in advance will save you from spending weeks with one later when it's too late =) –  Patrick Hughes Jul 17 '11 at 23:15
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I remember in some early versions of the PES games where the player names that weren't licenced just vaguely ressembled them, like 'Batistota' xD –  Jonathan Connell Jul 18 '11 at 9:34
    
(disclaimer: get a lawyer anyway) I strongly doubt simple colors/patterns can be copyrighted, but as soon as they get even slightly more complex it's a different matter vintagefootballshirts.com/avactis-images/ger90hs1_s.jpg myfootballtops.co.uk/images/invt/4068.jpg –  Lohoris Jul 20 '11 at 9:01
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2 Answers

A possibly safe approach...

I suggest something along the lines of what is known as "paper dolling" in the MMORPG arena where your players can select the colours of the uniforms (and provide them with RGB knobs so they can get the exact colour they want), broken down to:

  • Shirt colour
    • Background (the cloth colour)
    • Foreground (the player number)
  • Short colour
  • Sock colours (left and right could be different colours)
  • Shoe colours (black, brown, grey, and white should be enough selection for this part)

Also, start out with a randomly selected colour combination (and indicate that it was randomly selected), then provide the player with an option to randomly select a colour for each item (right next to all the RGB knobs).

I believe this solution will provide you with the most unbiased approach possible, without violating any specific colour schemes (getting feedback from a properly qualified lawyer would be wise here though anyway), but also without limiting your players from selecting the colours of their favourite teams.

You could even provide them with an option to supply art to use as a logo, and then you wouldn't be providing the logos. Your game's user interface could even remember the 25 most recent paths to logo files (along with the colours) that players used so they can easily re-create their teams the next time they play.

Dealing with logos...

If you wish to place a particular logo on the shirts, then you'll definitely need to get permission from whoever owns the trademarks before including them with your game.

If you're good at writing letters, draft up a friendly one on your own first and then have a lawyer with experience in Intellectual Property to review it before you send it (don't be surprised if you are expected to pay royalties, as it is important not to lose the perspective that sports teams are businesses that provide a product in the ever-so-popular "entertainment" category).

Any correspondence you have with owners of the logos, for which it is safe to assume that they're all Registered Trademarks, should be done with the assistance of a properly qualified lawyer.

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This is a perfect example of someone who very likely does not have a law degree or bar certification giving personal, targeted legal advice and claiming it is "safe". –  user744 Jul 17 '11 at 22:39
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@Joe Wreschnig: Are you aware of a case where a game developer was prohibited from allowing their players to select any colour from the full spectrum (which is what the RGB knobs would allow) for dressing up their characters? Also, I did recommend dealing with a properly qualified lawyer for logos, along with pointing out that the logos of sports teams are very likely all Registered Trademarks. –  Randolf Richardson Jul 17 '11 at 22:54
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Heroes#Suit_by_Marvel - Here is a case where a game developer / publisher was sued because they provided (essentially) RGB knobs. The case was settled with the outlook bad for Marvel for various reasons, none of which are essential to the point, and that a lawsuit was filed and had enough merit to last over a year makes it clear it's not entirely "safe". –  user744 Jul 18 '11 at 8:11
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@Joe Wreschnig: Excellent information (+1), wow! I guess Adobe could be next because of their Photoshop product? This really sucks. The whole legal system needs a major overhaul because what Marvel did (as described in that Wikipedia article) is an injustice. –  Randolf Richardson Jul 18 '11 at 8:30
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(not a lawyer but have developed with licensed sports titles before)

Start with everything generic, but make the uniform patterns + colors + logos configurable. This way you can work for a long time and not care about uniforms at all, but be ready to change them when you get your licenses.

You will not only have to license the team colors and jersey patterns, but also the player names on the roster and it will get expensive. Beyond that if you use any recognizable stadiums you will have to license those too, this is very common in American Baseball where stadiums are different and recognizable. Beyond even those issues if you use any stadium music or team songs, yes those need licenses. And get this, if players are wearing recognizable shoes like Adidas stripes or Nike swooshes, licensed.

You will need a lawyer with knowledge of Intellectual Propery to help you figure all those issues out.

(this is in the US, your country may vary)

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+1 for the point about stadium designs being covered by Intellectual Property rights. Given the way the US Patent Office behaves, I guess it's not surprising that certain public places are also exempt from being, well, "public." (I wonder if this also usurps the rights of photographers taking pictures in public places?) –  Randolf Richardson Jul 18 '11 at 3:37
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According to ASMP if the building was from before 1990, go for it. After late 1990 you're mostly clear unless there is artwork involved, in which case that has to be handled separately. Fair Use holds true, still. Here's a short list of trouble spots: pacaoffice.org/resources/specialReleases.html –  Patrick Hughes Jul 18 '11 at 3:55
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+1 for that information (and the link). Most of the items on that page do seem reasonable (e.g., the inside of the New York Stock Exchange since that is private property), but I'm surprised at two in particular; the "Hollywood Sign" (assuming this is the big "HOLLYWOOD" sign on the hill near Hollywood, California, USA) and the "Eiffel Tower at night" (because of the copyrighted lighting design). I wonder if over time, as more intellectual property is used in public, if we'll start seeing a lot of photographers getting sued -- this seems to be a dangerous road for society to travel down. =( –  Randolf Richardson Jul 18 '11 at 4:21
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