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If I am creating a board-game type game, does anyone know if it is legal to use others' names in the game?

ie. A playing card with "George Bush" or "Michael Jackson" on it.

Also, is it the same for brand names?

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In which country are you? – Hendrik Brummermann Oct 26 '10 at 22:40
-1, this is not the legal advice stack exchange, nor is this question game specific. – user744 Oct 27 '10 at 11:57
@Joe Wreschnig - It is an important consideration when designing a game, which to me makes it game development specific question, even though no one here will be qualified to give a professional legal answer. At the very least it raises the importance and potential implications of using names in a game. – Allan Oct 27 '10 at 23:24
Joe, they are simply helping give a starting point. Instead of bashing those who are asking questions or helping me find a starting place, you can simply leave a -1 vote and move on. – Andrew M Nov 1 '10 at 22:41
@Joe: what are you talking about lol? legal questions are not OT here. – o0'. Sep 8 '11 at 7:33
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would say no, unless you have been given permission. For example, think of sports games that do not own the rights to the league they are covering. They end up resorting to using similar, but different names to their real life counterparts.

EDIT: I found this discussion about using sports peoples names in websites It seems a name itself can not be copyright (so you can use their name in a news article for instance), however if you are benefiting from using their name/image then it is a violation of publicity rights.

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Ultimately you would need to talk to a lawyer to get a 100% correct answer. From what I can tell, as long as you only use a name in a statistics/news kinda way (so fantasy team comps, trivial pursuit) then you should be safe -although that's not to say someone might not try to sue you and are some cases. Certainly seems a grey area. I think if it is a commercial program then the chances of getting sued increases greatly. – Allan Oct 27 '10 at 1:51
...continued. So if a card game asked something like "Who was the president of the United States during 2002" and the card had an answer of "George Bush" then that is fine because that knowledge is in the public domain. But if you created a game where you play as the character George Bush then you could get yourself into trouble whether the game was free or not. – Allan Oct 27 '10 at 1:55
@Alla - IIRC (though IANAL), political figures cannot claim rights to their likeness used for commercial purposes, so long as those purposes do not entail libel – warren Oct 27 '10 at 3:40
@warren - it seems to depend (IANAL either). After doing more research into it, it seem parodies are fine in the US (which is why South Park is not sued), however there is a fine line between a individual’s publicity rights with the First Amendment. Depending on the usage, political figures can claim rights to their likeness being used for commercial purposes. Two good articles I came across are and – Allan Oct 27 '10 at 4:24
I would say as long as it is up to the user, that is, they are free to decide, then I see no problem with that. However, if it was worded to imply something, and what you were implying was considered defamatory, then you could get in trouble for that. – Allan Oct 27 '10 at 23:31

I think with celebrities you would be fine(as long as its not slander). It would be safer to use names that are close, if you are using them as a character in a game. But for board games you should be alright.

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-1 I'm sorry, nothing personal, but... this is wrong on so many levels. You shouldn't give carelessly legal advice, especially if it is utterly and completely made up out of nowhere (and completely wrong) like this one. – o0'. Sep 13 '11 at 19:49

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