I've seen quite a few posts on here similar to my question, but I am still having doubts about my implementation of an Easter Egg.

In the background of my game, There is a bookshelf, purely for cosmetic purposes. Because it's got books in it, I wanted to have names on all the books, as references to either real-world books, or fictional books in media.

Some Examples:

Real World Books:(These ones all have the authors names included on the cover)


 D&D Monster Manual

 Rendevous with Rama

Fictional Books:(No Authors, Because they're fictional)

 The Necronomicon (From many H.P Lovercraft Stories)

 The Enchiridion (From Adventure Time)

 Gray's Sports Almanac 1950-2000 (Back to the Future)

Books Imagined by Me:

 Graboid Hunting for Beginers (Graboids are monsters in Tremors, but this book does not exist in the movies)

 Aperature Science Employee Handbook (Aperature Science is the corporation from Portal, but this book does not exist in the games)

So, My question is, is it "acceptable" to simply mention names of real-world or fictional works in a background asset such as this? Or is even that going to far? My confusion comes from the fact that i'm not using any of the writing or artwork from the works, simply stating the name of the title.

If someone could please give my some guidance on this, I would greatly appreciate it.


  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Try law.stackexchange.com. this isn't really a game dev question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Almo
    Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 21:47
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this isn't really a game dev question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Almo
    Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 21:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Usually book titles can't be protected under copyright. However, they can be protected by trademarks. You can ask a lawyer about how to figure out if something is a trademark and under what condition you can use them. At least for USA, USPTO can help with that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theraot
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 10:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There isn't really a good answer to this. People sue for silly things and sometimes don't sue for what may seem like serious things. There are a lot of adult hentai animations online of famous game characters for instance. Another known example is the use of SMB elements in Flappy Bird. What you are suggesting doesn't sound like grounds for a law suit but I am not a lawyer and like I said, it is hard to predict and give sound advice on this. Most likely, no one will care. Then on the other side of the coin you have companies suing for the use of the word 'Candy' or 'Saga' in a game name. \$\endgroup\$
    – AturSams
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ What @AturSams said: if a company feels like setting their legal attack dogs on you, for whatever reason, they will. So for example, Middle-earth Enterprises own the game rights for Lord of the Rings, and are known to be quite litigious - you can expect to be sued if you use "Lord of the Rings" as one of your books. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


Good article on this subject here: How To Add Easter Eggs To Your Game Legally.

The article states that the following are all legal uses of references to properties within your game / easter egg:

  • References to your own work
  • Non Parody, indirect reference: For example, hitting a block in a game and a coin pops out of it a la Super Mario Bros. This is an iconic part of Mario games but it isn’t – by itself – a copyrighted property, a trademark name or identifier or a protected character likeness.
  • Parody, direct reference: Parody is a form of critique and fair use law may cover this type of reference.

I would say your reference could arguably fall into parody category. Feels like a matter of weighing the odds of getting called out along with your desire to include the easter egg. FYI, I'm not a lawyer. If you are truley concerned then you should probably consult one.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to GDSE. That's an excellent resource & you should summarize its information in your answer. Without a summary, this becomes mostly a link only answer which tend to attract down votes &/or get removed as not being a real answer; either would be unfortunate as there's some useful guidelines presented in the linked content. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Told Internet Archive to save a mirror of the link (here), just in case. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theraot
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 10:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that "parody = fair use" is an unique aspect of US copyright law. It doesn't work in every jurisdiction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 17:40

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