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This question already has an answer here:

My idea was something similar to rFactor, but very easy to mod. There will be a step by step tutorial.

If I or somebody from the developers make the mods and publish them, do I still need licensing? Now it's just an idea, but I plan to make at least 1000-1500 cars from at least 150 manufacturers, and that would cost a fortune. A lot of the cars would be converted from other games like Forza or GT6 and others modeled by my team.

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marked as duplicate by bummzack, Alexandre Vaillancourt, DMGregory, Kromster, Josh Jan 4 '16 at 16:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Try to limit a question to, well, one single question. \$\endgroup\$ – Elva Dec 30 '15 at 12:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I removed the additional questions to prevent the question from getting closed. The second question about licensing fees for the .3ds format is best addressed to Autodesk and the third question "what is the best programming language" is one of the forbidden questions which must never be asked in polite company, unless you want to start a flamewar. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Dec 30 '15 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know but you could use the models and let them "inspire you" (rework them) and remove every branding, like Rockstar does with GTA, cars look like the real ones but no branding. \$\endgroup\$ – Xriuk Dec 30 '15 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ You write "Converted from other games" and "others modelled by my team" do you mean get the assets from Forza or GT6 to use in your own game? \$\endgroup\$ – Felsir Dec 30 '15 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Apart from the issue of licensing from car manufacturers, I want to address this line: "A lot of the cars would be converted from other games..." - other games' creators hold copyright on assets they made. So "converting" them could easily land you in hot water, even if you had a licence from the car brand to use the vehicles' appearance. The developers/publishers still own the models & textures. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Jan 2 '16 at 0:47
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I am not a lawyer, for actual legal advise consult an actual lawyer.

No, you can not have licensed cars without a license, and you probably won't be able to get one regardless. Car licenses are expensive, hard to come by and fraught with extra requirements (ever wonder why you generally won't get a Ferrari in a game with destructible cars?).

Releasing a mod for your game that adds actual cars is also probably not legal, regardless of whether they are for sale or not. Even if it is legal, you'll go bankrupt before proving that in court should it come to that.

If you want you can make cars that look vaguely similar and have different names, that's generally sufficient, but again. Not a lawyer, not legal advice.

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Usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and in this site questions about these issues have to be always taken as ideas, thoughts or experiences, never as technical advice.

That said, yes, if you or somebody from the developer team wants to use the names of the cars, the names of the car companies or the models of the cars, a license will be needed. Otherwise, you risk having to face legal problems. Never forget that when sued, just the time and resources you will have to spend in the legal struggle will be harmful no matter the result. But even worse, at the end, without the licenses, you likely will loose all the work you and your team have put a lot of effort into preparing.

For the sake of detailing, keep in mind that car names and car manufacturer names are trademarked, while the assets representing the cars (i.e. the car models) are copyrighted. Trademarking and copyrighting are two different things: "Video Games and the law: Copyright, Trademark and Intellectual Property".

Lastly, of course if modders came up with car models, then that is not necessarily a legal problem for you. I mean not necessarily, because you have also to be careful of not endorsing mods that infringe copyrights or trademarks, in order to be sure that you are safe from legal problems. Although the mods are not your responsability, if your game's website for instance holds tons of mods that are considered to be illegal due to infringing copyrights/trademarks, I doubt it won't give you trouble.

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The names of cars and car manufacturers are trademarked. Using a trademark without permission opens you up to lawsuits. If you want to use trademarks of car manufacturers, you should contact their marketing departments to negotiate a deal.

When you release the base game with no trademarked content and leave it to the modding community to do so, you shift the legal responsibility to the modders. They are violating the trademarks, not you, so they should be the ones getting sued. But be careful about hosting or even endorsing mods which violate trademarks, or you might also be targeted.

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If it's legal or not doesn't matter. Some car manufacturers will sue you if you don't have an agreement with them (a license). Defending yourself against such lawsuits with less than half a million USD per suit can only be done if you settle out of court and pay them.

Various examples of licenses exist, but one example is Blur, which had a license from Audi at one point, but later on something fell through, that's why the game is no longer being sold. While we don't know what exactly went wrong, they preferred to stop selling the game instead of pursuing other options.

The second idea of yours is far more problematic. Taking models from other games without permission is very blunt intellectual property theft. Even if you just steal parts of the game, it's very close to taking a game without copy protection and selling it as your own, which means massive legal trouble.

The only way this could somewhat work is the Kim Dotcom/Mega way: Make sure 3rd parties provide the models on their own, make sure you have absolutely no ties to these 3rd parties, remove any models some manufacturer or publisher complains about, and provide an easy way for the 3rd parties to add them again. Even then, you need to make many millions of profit, because even if what you do might be technically legal, just like in the Dotcom/Mega case police might still raid your home regardless what the law says, and you'll need a few millions for attorney fees or land in jail.

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