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I've always wanted to make a video game that criticises pokemon. I want to know if I could use pokemon as the characters in the game without running into copy right laws. The game itself will have nothing to do with the normal purpose of pokemon but at one point also mimics pokemon mystery dungeon a little. that point in the game would be similar to the rescuing of other pokemon and will also have some of the same characters in pokemon mystery dungeon. so, could I possably make this game? or not. If I couldn't, what would it take to have permission. If your wondering how the game criticises pokemon, it does so cause it's supposed to be a gory hard core M game. What if I was to not include any of the titles from pokemon like pikachu for example and just simply give the characters real life names as well as give minor changes in designs and abilities? Could that help avoid copyright problems?

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Seems to be a duplicate of: gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/24171/… –  Trevor Powell Feb 19 '12 at 20:52
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1. Don't call it your own version of pokemon. –  Matt Jensen Feb 19 '12 at 21:01
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Satire, awesome idea. But legally, not a good idea. –  ashes999 Feb 19 '12 at 21:16
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@Lohoris In which case, he'd be better off asking someone who knows the laws in his area and who is qualified to give out legal advice, rather than random internet strangers. Absolutely terrifies me that someone might come to this site, ask a question about what's legal, get an incorrect answer, and then do something stupid that gets them sued or imprisoned. I'm still baffled about why we don't close "is this legal" questions as a matter of policy. We can't answer them definitively for everyone everywhere for all time, and the consequences for getting an answer wrong are too great. –  Trevor Powell Feb 20 '12 at 11:54
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Furthermore, unless you are qualified and a member of the relevant association, it is generally illegal (like - Jail Time illegal - not a little bit over the speed limit illegal) to give legal advice in most jurisdictions. Tread carefully. –  lochok Feb 22 '12 at 3:30
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5 Answers 5

When I see these types of questions, I like to give the same answer:

Unless you have deep pockets (which I'm assuming you don't; otherwise you'd be asking a lawyer), you shouldn't really ask whether something is legal (etc.) but whether you're likely to get sued. If you can't defend yourself, it doesn't really matter whether you could win in court, it only matters that you couldn't adequately represent yourself legally. And often times companies that do have deep pockets are well aware of this. (cough cough, Zynga)

Of course, you should always keep your conscience in mind - is this moral? Unfortunately this seems to be less relevant as capitalism grows.

Edit: To answer your question more directly, you would be very likely to encounter legal recourse if you used original game characters in your game, particularly if you use original artwork. I'm no lawyer, though, so you should seek professional legal advice before moving forward with your game idea.

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To parody Pokemon, you are not required to copy Pokemon. You simply need to reference it. Traditionally, this is done with obvious knock-off characters.

So instead of Pikachu, you might have Zapachu or something like that. Just look at common parodies in fiction; that's generally how they work.

Parody, legally speaking, is protected. You're allowed fairly wide latitude to parody things. But be warned: if your parody strays too close to the source material, you could be in for a lawsuit, even if it is a parody. Where that line is depends on who's the copyright holder.

Lawsuits are expensive even if you ultimately prevail. So I suggest discretion: try to make it clear that you're parodying it without taking too much directly from it.

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Parody is not "protected". Parody is recognised as a defense against claims of copyright infringement in the USA and in some other countries, in some limited circumstances. Many other countries do not recognise this type of defense at all. Canada, for example, does not. Neither does the UK. As always, consult an attorney in your local area, and do not blindly accept advice on "what is legal" questions from random internet people; their jurisdiction is almost definitely different than yours! –  Trevor Powell Feb 20 '12 at 11:47
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I suspect you would run into copyright troubles.

On the one hand, copyright law does allow fair use exceptions for parodies and documentaries that criticize the original work. On the other hand, this description does not sounds like a criticism:

"it's supposed to be a gory hard core M game"

That's not criticizing Pokemon, that's making Pokemon:XTREME

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That could still be considered satire. After all, Pokemon is a game about animals with powers that are captured by children and trained to fight against each other. A deconstruction of Pokemon would not be complete without pointing out the inherent violence of it, so a bloody, violent Pokemon is par for the course. Like all satire or parody, it's about how you present it. –  Nicol Bolas Feb 19 '12 at 22:52
    
On the one hand, that's why I said "I suspect"; that description could be protected speech. However the way he presents things does not sound like a criticism or satire. He says that being gory is the reason his proposed game is a criticism, as opposed to gory being one element of a deconstruction. –  jhocking Feb 20 '12 at 12:48
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I think this is a question that you can answer on your own, if you're honest with yourself.

Imagine for a moment that you've spent more than ten years of your life creating a suite of hundreds of characters and a huge game world. You've made a series of child-friendly games that people around the world love, and done pretty well by yourself through them. These games are one of the core franchises that keeps your company afloat, and allows you to continue to pay your employees.

Now imagine that a no-name developer contacts you out of the blue, and wants permission to remake one of your existing games, but including gore and other adult content. Under what circumstances would you ever agree to that?

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Unfortunately morality and legality are often at odds. (cough Zynga) –  Kai Feb 19 '12 at 20:44
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Yeah. COUGH COUGH, Zynga. –  stephelton Feb 20 '12 at 0:38
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Let's be honest here; the Mystery Dungeon games were Pokemon-themed roguelikes. I don't see any concerns at all about the OP making a roguelike game. The problem is using copyrighted (and quite possibly trademarked) Pokemon characters/names, and the Pokemon trade dress itself. If the original asker didn't intend to use copyrighted artwork or trademarked terms, then there's really no issue at all with making a game that's a blatant clone of the Mystery Dungeon games. Copyright doesn't protect design; only the products of that design. –  Trevor Powell Feb 20 '12 at 2:35
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I know this post is old as shit but, I'm getting into this kind of area right now, thinking of making a game about an existing franchise.

Through what I've researched so far, it all comes down to money. If you're not turning a profit, then game companies shouldn't care so much, unless what you're doing dramatically alters the lore, context, genre, story, ethos, context, presentation, chronology etc of the series of games. And ultimately, put a giant disclaimer in your game somewhere that denies all rights, and say that it is a non-profit product.

If you ARE turning a profit, then chances are the company is gonna be interested, they'd probably like a large slice of cake. What I'd do, is contact the developers on their policy and ask them how they'd feel about what you're doing, and if it comes to it, discuss what % of money they would have out of it. Better yet, if what you're doing is successful, sell them the idea or ask to work for them based on that, like catch me if you can.

Don't try to avoid the company, work with the company!

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