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Let's say I'm doing an Indie sports game, and ship it with fictional players, but make the game capable of reading a config file, so that players are able to edit in real names to suit themselves.

The game is a free multi-player, peer-to-peer (p2p) game, and so once the game is published, there is no central server authority which controls what the players are doing, thus allowing them to mod the game as they please.

What's the legal situation with something like that? The file is literally just a plain text file with some names in it. I would imagine that if I were to host that file, and have my game download and consume it on start up, that would be unacceptable, as it would be the same as shipping the game with real player names?

So that makes me wonder, would such a file be illegal for people to share? If I were to make such a file, and distribute it to the community via a forum, would that be illegal? What about if I didn't do that, but a customer did?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it a single player game, or a multi-player game? Currently, this question is broad enough that it appears that it should be asked to a lawyer. What aspect of this worries you exactly? The way you ask it, it reads like you would program your game in a way that you could yourself, on the side, publish anonymously another config file with real player names... \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Feb 24 at 12:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Multiplayer. I'm interested in where the line is crossed. If I ship with real names - I've crossed it. If I allow users to edit and save a config - clearly I've not crossed it. But there's a huge range of things that could be done in between that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom Davies
    Feb 24 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ That definitely looks like a question to ask a lawyer. We're game developers here: we can help you with the making-the-game parts, but we are not legal experts. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Feb 24 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok fair enough. As the game is going to be free, I can't afford a lawyer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom Davies
    Feb 24 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember that waaaaay back in the day, the first Geoff Crammond's Microsoft Grand Prix didn't have a license so used all fake names but did give the user the ability to edit them and save them on a disk (like the save games) and as far as I know, there was no legal issue but I'm certainly not a lawyer. I also remember that in one of the Grand Prix Manager games, Jacques Villeneuve wouldn't give his permission for his name to be used so he was changed to John Newhouse, even though everyone else's real name was in there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stephen
    Feb 24 at 14:00
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They can mod any name into the game as they please. If the original product of the game uses fake names, and a user edits them to be real, that shouldn't effect you because it is a modification of the original product, which had no copyrighted names within it. If you distribute the game with the names in it, that's a different licensing area to explore with people like FIFA or the MLB.

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