0
\$\begingroup\$

Licensing the rights to a popular character is definitely a hard process. Rather than licensing the rights to (insert hero here), what if I were to make a satirical version of the IP owner's character(s) like Spaceballs did? What sort of legal trouble could I face for making a satirical rip-off of a character?

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This question does not appear to be specific to game development, since as you point out, parody happens routinely in other media like film. Why not ask on a law site instead if it's not game development expertise that you need? \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory May 10 at 11:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I’m voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not specific to game development. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory May 10 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, this falls under Parody, which is completely legal. As long as you make it clear that this is not the original character(so you dont breach trademark) but use a different name you should be fine. Interestingly enough, I believe one of the things the courts look at for parodies is whether or not they are satirical. \$\endgroup\$ – Millard Jun 2 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is still possible to get sued though, because large companies have a ton of money to throw at lawsuits. \$\endgroup\$ – Millard Jun 2 at 19:59
2
\$\begingroup\$

Anyone can sue you for anything. The question is not just if you would have the legal standing to win, but also if you could afford to fight a lawsuit. Because defending against a copyright or trademark lawsuit is expensive, and you need to pay your lawyers up-front.

In some (not all) jurisdictions, "satire" is a possible fair-use exception from copyright. But that does not mean that every court will see your satire as satire, and not possibly as infringement at best or defamation at worst. So when you can not afford a good lawyer, then you should be very careful about using other people's IP in the hope that saying it's a satire will protect you.

By the way, when Mel Brooks made Spaceballs, he actually did negotiate with Lucas Film about how far he could go without them sending their lawyers after him. Part of that agreement was that there would be no merchandise for Spaceballs and that he would hire their subsidiary Industrial Light & Magic for the special effects.

\$\endgroup\$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.