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Currently a student, I'm trying to put together a game for iOS. From everywhere I've read, it seems any game's sound and art are apart of their IP and covered under their Copyright.

That being said, say I wanted to use the coin sound effect from the original Mario (less than 1s long and used sparsely)... would anyone really care? Having no experience with this, I'm just wondering if cases like this are treated like "Ya you're driving slightly over the speed limit, but nobody cares" or as "you stole that car".

Thanks for any insight anyone may be able to provide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You should never ever use content you're not the owner of or that isn't licensed under a licence that allows the free use (commercial/non commercial?). \$\endgroup\$
    – Aron_dc
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aron_dc lol thanks. just making sure! Appreciate speedy response \$\endgroup\$
    – Z.O
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Copyright is one big grey area. Only the owners of the IP can sue, and they need to know about it and they need to actually care about it. The chance isn't high, but if it happens, well, you'll have a big problem there. \$\endgroup\$
    – API-Beast
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's really no need to copy that original coin sound. Just use a generator like as3sfxr and generate something similar (tap the PICKUP/COIN button until you found something suiting). Problem solved. \$\endgroup\$
    – bummzack
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or paste the following while on as3sfxr for a nice coin sound: 0,,0.21,0.5834,0.3893,0.5421,,,,,,0.4956,0.6008,,,,,,1,,,,,0.5 ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – bummzack
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:54

3 Answers 3

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The safe answer is to never use content you did not originally create. Any knowledge of using copyright protected content is obvious infringement. You can always try contacting the owner of the content and explain to them how you want to use something. They may give you permission to use it for free(for a student project or something) or may license it to you for a cost(for commercial use).

In the end though, I would definitely treat this like a "You stole that car" moment, just to be safe. You can get sunk fast when it comes to copyright.

EDIT: Found another interesting article/blog that goes into law with games. Pretty interesting blog. Going to bookmark it myself for reading later :)

NOTE: the above article seems to be based on UK law. But it gives a lot of examples about how it applies to america. So it is still relevant to both area's.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey, thanks for the speedy response, really appreciate it. Great link too! Thanks again! \$\endgroup\$
    – Z.O
    Aug 29, 2012 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem. Glad my answer helped. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2012 at 15:10
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[Discalimer: I'm not a lawyer. I've just researched the topic a bit.]

In some countries, there is (what I would call) a grey area in copyright known as fair use. I believe its considered a grey area because:

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.

You can also determine from the article that there are certain areas where fair use is usually applied:

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

The list of bullets that follow are the reasons people justify their fair use, but are not always successful due to the grey area I mentioned above.

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

That all being said, based on what you are asking the only argument you might have is from the third bullet above and it would be best you just make your own sound effect. As the other answers have pointed out, you really don't want to get into a lawsuit revolving around copyright.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey man thanks for the response! Really helps a lot - much appreciated!! \$\endgroup\$
    – Z.O
    Aug 29, 2012 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ The concept of "fair use" of copyrighted material only exists in a very small number of jurisdictions. There is no "fair use" exception in, for example, Germany. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2012 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point! This I did not know and its definitely worth pointing out. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2012 at 22:28
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You can't compare copyright infringement with "stealing a car" or "driving too fast" because it's not enforced by the executive. To sue you the copyright owners themselves must know you "stole" their IP, they must care enough about it and they must have the resources to sue you. Unless your product gets quite popular and isn't a complete disgrace it's unlikely.

However copyright law-suits hurts your purse, a lot. So the chance that you are sued is rather low, but if you get sued you have a biiig problem.

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