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(Please read the entire question before you crucify me :p)

This is a question that has been on my mind for some time.

Basically, How much of a sprite needs to be changed in order for you to claim "ownership" of said sprite. I've made a few examples to illustrate my point.

(I made these examples specifically to illustrate my point)

enter image description here

I did not make this. I do not know who made this, I found it on Pinterest.

Focus on Far Left, Second to bottom. The Feather Hat Guy.

enter image description here

Would this be enough to call your own? (I would say probably not.)

...But what if your create unique animations?

enter image description hereenter image description here

What if I make it nearly unrecognizable...

enter image description here

...And give this unique animations.

enter image description hereenter image description here

What if the end product has nothing in common except the skin tone?

enter image description here

What if a design is so simplistic, it would actually be easier to draw it yourself? Would this even be considered editing at this point?

enter image description here

So, my two main questions are...

  1. Can you Copyright an pixel art "Style"?
  2. How much of a sprite needs to be changed in order for you to claim "ownership" of said sprite.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This looks like a question to ask a lawyer, not a game developer. If you have trouble with the making-a-game parts of making your game (like "how do I implement feature X? / fix bug Y?"), ask here. Folks with expertise in making game can help with that. If you're wondering whether your approach for making a game is legal, ask a lawyer. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jun 24 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looks like you're talented enough to come up with your own stuff, why do you want to add more stress to your life by "maybe" infringing a copyright? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Jun 24 at 0:11
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From the memorandum opinion from the US court case of Dave Grossman Designs, Inc. v. Bortin:

The law of copyright is clear that only specific expressions of an idea may be copyrighted, that other parties may copy that idea, but that other parties may not copy that specific expression of the idea or portions thereof. For example, Picasso may be entitled to a copyright on his portrait of three women painted in his Cubist motif. Any artist, however, may paint a picture of any subject in the Cubist motif, including a portrait of three women, and not violate Picasso's copyright so long as the second artist does not substantially copy Picasso's.

Based on that precedent, in the US you cannot copyright style per say and you can assert ownership of a specific expression (for instance a sprite) provided that it doesn't not substantially copy someone else's work. To my knowledge, there's no specific definition of what constitutes "substantially". US copyright caselaw is complex; such is the dominion of legal professionals.

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