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If you google for sprites sheets, you'll find a lot of sprites sheets. As far as I can remember, industrial patents (the terms may not be the right ones I'm sorry), after 20 years, fall into public domain. For music it's 100 years. How about sprites sheets?

I'd like to know if I can use some of them directly? If I spend a lot of time to take them, rework them as SVG and they will look modern but exactly the same as the original ones?

What is the general rule of thumb to follow to know if I can use a sprite sheet?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sprites probably fall into the art category, not the industrial one, so the copyright can range from life of artist + 20 years to the ridiculous life of artist + 100 years. You should either find art, that's not copyrighted or was deliberately put into public domain to begin with or simply pay for it \$\endgroup\$ – Bálint Apr 26 '18 at 7:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems like a duplicate of gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/38432/… which in turn was closed for being a duplicate of gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/1653/… \$\endgroup\$ – Pikalek Apr 26 '18 at 13:32
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IANAL TINLA If you are talking about the technology known as sprite sheets: Such a technology and method is not patentable, as it is not novel to put images in rows or cells. You could easily do this yourself or use countless other softwares to do this without fear of legal issues.

If you are talking about the art that someone created that is a sprite sheet: all art is copyrighted at its creation, and unless you are given license to use said work, you would be absolutely infringing upon the lawful intellectual property owners rights.

As for "how long" such a copyright lasts, that depends on the owner of the copyright, the date of creation, and many other factors. For instance:

"For works published after 1977, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, if the work is a work for hire (that is, the work is done in the course of employment or has been specifically commissioned) or is published anonymously or under a pseudonym, the copyright lasts between 95 and 120 years, depending on the date the work is published. All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, even if the author died over 70 years ago, the copyright in an unpublished work lasts until December 31, 2002. And if such a work is published before December 31, 2002, the copyright will last until December 31, 2047."

[Excerpt from: https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/faqs/copyright-basics/#how_long_does_a_copyright_last ]

In any case, if you want to use something that you didn't make (even to edit it slightly and make it better) you really should ask the owner of the ip for written permission to do so; not only to get their permission but to protect your butt from losing rights to use your creation that used their IP (a spit and a handshake: "yeah, go ahead" said in person or over the phone isn't enough... get an email or letter stating unarguably that you are allowed to use the ip in question).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Perfect answer, this is clear enough. One suggestion: instead of writing important things in CAPS maybe bold has more impact and it's not like you're shouting the word ;^) Have a nice day! \$\endgroup\$ – Olivier Pons Apr 26 '18 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ maybe I wanted to shout ;P Thanks for the suggestion and I have made those changes. Cheers :D \$\endgroup\$ – return true Apr 30 '18 at 20:51

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