Lets say I have a game that is some kind of a quiz, and its questions are themed around gaming.

For it to be interesting, I would need to make references to well-known games and game-related stuff.

In a copyright infrigement sense, could I have problems with this? Imagine a question such as, "What was the currency used in game X?", or "Which company made game Y?".

Also, the same applied to screenshots of known games, and have a question near it, such as "What game is this image from?".

Toughts? Thanks



Tattoo the phrase CITE WHAT'S NOT YOURS on your arm, and you'll be happy forever.

Some details:

Wikipedia says (emphasis added):

Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

If your work falls under one of those categories, have some tea and go for a walk -- you have nothing whatsoever to worry about.

Otherwise, here are some general guidelines from having followed hobbyist game developers and news:

  • If you'll earn enough money out of it to live (even if that money comes indirectly out of advertising on your site) do not use anyone else's licensed content. At all. Bob does work, Bob gets paid. If Bob gets paid for someone else's work, there's going to be trouble when that someone else finds out.
  • If you'll earn money, but not enough to live off of, cite, make sure the licensed content is not the central core of your game and cooperate fully if someone asks their licensed content to be removed. Most likely, nobody will mind. Corporate types dig free advertising and indie types will just be flattered someone noticed them.
  • If you will make no money (up to and including getting ad-revenue that just covers your server costs), cite what you use and you'll be good.

There will of course be exceptions, but this should cover almost all cases.


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    \$\begingroup\$ Insightful. I think that is a good answer to my question, +1. For sure there are deeper legal advice I could get from a lawyer, but for what I am aiming, problems should be proportional to the amount of money I make, which is not an issue most likely. Being cooperative with the authors also seems a good idea! \$\endgroup\$ – Grimshaw Mar 18 '12 at 22:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ While the "fair use" paragraph is right, what follows is misleading to the very least. There are companies who apparently like just being asses suing AOE whenever they get a scrap of occasion. It's an harsh world. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Mar 19 '12 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lo As stated, everything after the "fair use"-paragraph is what I personally would recommend based on what I've seen and heard of hobbyist game developers over the years. Ass Corps seem few and far between and are ALL in it for the money, not much of which is to be had from a kid who put a screenshot of Sonic on their quiz game. Harsh world, maybe, but predictably so. \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Mar 19 '12 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anko, would the fair use be "legal"/"ok"(in States and civilized countries), if upon developing a game, in my public development diary I'd put a crossed out World of Warcraft logo, and say that "We will end <something> that is very annoying in the World of World and this game will be completely different". Would the use of such logo be considered fair use under the purpose of criticism? kickstarter.com/projects/1675907842/… Those from that kickstarter guys used corporation trademarks in their videos... \$\endgroup\$ – Mikolaj Marcisz May 26 '13 at 11:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mikolaj If the logo is a necessary or important part of the criticism, then certainly yes. Other cases are legal gray zone: Wikipedia summarises its policy like this: "Non-free content is used only if its presence would significantly increase readers' understanding of the topic, and its omission would be detrimental to that understanding." How do you measure "significance"? No idea. Gray zone. But put yourself in Blizzard's shoes: If you're not making any money (and ideally not losing them much money), you're probably good. \$\endgroup\$ – Anko May 26 '13 at 23:26

If this is a widely published commercial game, then you better get explicit permission for whatever you're using. Laws regarding this is not very well defined, you will want to take a look at this article and make your own conclusions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand what you're saying, which makes making such a game absolutely unthinkable.. I will always be reproducing fractions of copyrighted work, even if giving proper credit. It is also unthinkable to get authorization from an arbitrary number of entities.. I tought of a possibility. Release the application completely skinned from content, and make an interface for users to make and share question packs. However, I bet smart lawyers could still pick on me somehow, even if i am not directly to blame. \$\endgroup\$ – Grimshaw Mar 18 '12 at 21:35

My own gut feeling tells me that references are OK, that screenshots for the purposes of reviewing or demonstrating are OK, but screenshot use in another work is not.


I am not a lawyer and I am in no way qualified to give this advice.

"Some random bloke on the internet said it was or wasn't OK" is not a sound basis for this decision. I'd suggest that if you want to continue with the idea you get the advise of someone who is qualified appropriately.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can I get feedback on the -1 please? I would have thought that suggesting to consult someone qualified to advise on these things was quite prudent. \$\endgroup\$ – Maximus Minimus Mar 19 '12 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry. This is quite plainly a useless answer: "I think it's ok, but consult a lawyer" doesn't tell the OP anything he shouldn't already know. I'd say either actually say something worth of notice, or limit yourself to a comment. (no offence intended, etc.) \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Mar 19 '12 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ None taken, I was just curious. I don't think asking Joe Random on the internet is a good approach if it involves a possibility of your ass being sued, but I do see where you're coming from. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Maximus Minimus Mar 19 '12 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ lol I agree: my problem with your answer is quite the opposite. That is: saying "get a lawyer" is the standard response and not worth of an answer of its own, and other than that you are not really adding anything of value. A good answer to a legal question would be "I know it works this way, but get a lawyer", as opposite to "my gut tells you to do that, but get a lawyer". The "my gut tells" is a wrong response whatever the question, btw. Either you know or you don't. HTH \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Mar 19 '12 at 16:44

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