I develop a game for a mobile platform. I would like to implement a movie figure/creature/character/vehicle into the game.

I wish to ask about Copyrights:

Is it acceptable, if I implement famous movie-like creatures (ex: Alien, Predator, Star Ship vehicle) into my game? Occasionally, I see games based on movies: "Star Trek, Star Wars, James Bond, etc..". If I wish to create a game based on successful movie, do I have to obtain approval?

What about songs? If I legaly purchase a CD in the store, can I use the song into my game?

Are there any conditions, under which I can use movie-like characters in my game? For example, if the game is going to be shareware/freeware, if the reneues does not exceed certain amount, or if some percentage of the original character look is modified?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @downvoter: this question was downwoted as not a real question. I understand that the question is broad, but it is absolutely clearly related to game development. The questions are clearly formulated too. Moreover, it is absolute must for every game developer to learn answers to the questions above. Why to close opportunity to inform starters on this important subject? Sometimes, I have impression, that people are happy to close questions - not sure if they earn some points for that. \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2011 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bunkai: Hover your mouse over the downvote button and read the tooltip. You are leaping to conclusions. If anything, it is more likely this falls under "did not do research", but we simply have no idea why it was downvoted. \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2011 at 1:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally speaking, it doesn't matter how much money is involved. If you don't have the right to distribute something (for example, for music), you don't have the right to distribute it at all. Regardless of whether or not you're making money. If you have to ask "can I do this with someone else's IP" the answer is "no". \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetrad
    May 15, 2011 at 2:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, regarding games based on movies: the movie studio would've approached a games company and asked them to make a game based on the movie (it's promotional material and merchandise). I don't know of any occasions where it occurred the other way around - that isn't to say it didn't happen however. \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2011 at 3:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not a real question because there's like four different questions in it. That also makes it a bad question, hence downvoting. I also still think it's off-topic. I'm also absolutely sick of "how much can I clone of X?" questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – user744
    May 15, 2011 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. What follows is a basic overview of the issues that may surround the material you've brought up.

Music: Read the license on your music. You've purchased it for personal use on personal devices, not for distribution. Movies featuring a popular song didn't buy a CD from a store and copy it into their movie; they sought a license from the publisher and you'll need to do that too.

Characters: In most cases, the kind of characters/races/etc you mentioned will be the intellectual property of some person, company, etc. You will probably not have any permission whatsoever to use it in any way. The exception is anything covered by fair use: for instance, by creating a character who is completely original, but also a parody or reference to someone else covered by IP.

Bear in mind there is public domain material, which is material for which intellectual property rights were forfeited or expired (e.g. a lot of music before the 1930s is no longer covered by copyright). You can use public domain material without restriction.

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine whether the thing you want to use is the intellectual property of someone, and if so, what permissions they extend to you (assume none until proven otherwise). For instance, Blizzard will often permit third parties use of their content so long as it is beneficial to Blizzard (e.g. webcomics, machinimas - it's all just publicity for them).

If there are more specifics I'll leave someone else to address them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jonathan Hobs: +1 - Thank you for this answer. If I understand it correctly, it takes 80 years after standard Copyright expires, unless the product Copyright is prolonged. For this, a lawyer university degree would be helpful. :-) \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2011 at 9:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will keek this thread open for a while, to see if people contribute with more answers. If not, i will mark this, as the Accepted Answer \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2011 at 10:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bunkai Something like that. The exact behaviour of copyright law depends on the type of medium. Also, the reason why most things pre-1930s is now public domain is because before ~1930 copyright could not be renewed. \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2011 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jonathan Hobbs: Understood. \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2011 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bunkai At this point, it is 70 years after the death of an author. Or in cases of works created by a corporation, either 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication. This will also probably be extended again in the future. \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2011 at 16:54

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