My small games all have different gameplay. I want to showcase them through the internet. However, I'm worried about them and their concepts getting copied. How can I protect them?

Also, if I have to openly display the code to the open source community, how can I make sure I get credit for my work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you release it on the internet, it will get copied. If you release it commercially, it will get copied. If you do anything except hoard it, it will get copied. The best you can really do is put a GPL or some license on it to attempt to dissuade people. \$\endgroup\$ – The Communist Duck Nov 17 '10 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ See 17:54 into gdcvault.com/play/1015646/Back-to-the-Garage-The \$\endgroup\$ – bobobobo Dec 28 '12 at 17:39

Don't worry about your concept getting copied wholesale. It's much more work implementing a concept than coming up with one, and anyone who can put together a finished product will either have ideas of their own, or will change the game enough that it becomes different. If your game is awesome, then it'll be really hard to copy it and make a version that's better/more popular, and if it isn't awesome, people are unlikely to copy it.

Art and engineering are built on the shoulders of giants. You're surely copying some concepts from games you've played, and people will (if you're lucky) borrow a few things from your game to make their own. Don't worry about copying at all.


You just don't.

1) try to be able to sell it, and if you really put a lot of effort on it, people will have a hard time re-implementing its "concept".

2) if you release with a license such as GPL, credits will not be usually a problem. Someone could still steal your code, and if they do you could sue if you knew (but you won't know). The EFF might help.

I'm wondering how did you come up with two opposite questions such as these, I guess you're a bit confused. If you release the game open source, and it's any good, derivate games will almost automatically happen.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I know I'm asking two different questions here. But I'm looking for options for what I can do to have presence in the gaming community. And well, selling games is an option, but I'm looking for "How to's". Also I will check out the licensing stuffs. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – GamDroid Nov 17 '10 at 10:11

According to the law you actually cannot do that.

You want to protect the game rules, rules are inherently ideas, and ideas cannot be protected, only your text can be copyrighted (code and GDD), the name trademarked, and that is it.

The patent law says it is illegal to patent ideas, including software and game rules (unfortunately patent offices ignore this, so yes, you CAN try to patent your game, and try to enforce the patent, but it may, or may not work).

But that is for obvious reasons, if your concept is THAT great, then it is good for humanity to it be copied, it is up to you to get money and credit with it (you can for example create a exceptional game, and everyone will call the genre as "yourgame-clone" or you can name the thing after yourself, like Perlin Noise...).

Ever tought of what would happen if id Software could prevent anyone else from making FPS, and EA from anyone making RTS? Or the MUD people preventing anyone from making MMO?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "The patent law says it is illegal to patent ideas, including software and game rules" - board games mechanics have been patented since before the 20th, in the US. I still don't recommend trying to do it - patenting is a long, expensive, complicated process, compared to the automatic coverage of copyright, and as the coverage is broader, makes you something of an asshole to other designers. \$\endgroup\$ – user744 Nov 17 '10 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ IIRC board game mechanics are not patentable. You can make a direct copy of the Monopoly rules and sell it in a box. What you can't do is use and of the character names, or artwork. Of course IANAL. \$\endgroup\$ – wkerslake Nov 17 '10 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wkerslake: Board games have been and are being patented, Monopoly one of the more famous among them. (Of course, Monopoly's has long since expired.) Example from 2002: google.com/patents/about?id=y3cUAAAAEBAJ ; famous example from 1904: google.com/patents?vid=748626 . \$\endgroup\$ – user744 Nov 17 '10 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Like I said, the law says it is illegal to do it, but offices do it anyway, and some judges enforce it anyway, this is why I said it MAY work, it is not guaranteed that it would work. Ghost Car for example is patented (by SEGA I think), as some board games, but this was not supposed to be possible. \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Dec 1 '10 at 0:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Joe: well, no. If a law says something is illegal, it IS illegal. That's the definition. Then, if offices and judges ignore the law, well, you may say that it is de facto legal, but it still de jure illegal. (IANAL) \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Feb 2 '11 at 14:57

According to US intellectual property law you have 4 options:

  • Copyright
    Doesn't apply to ideas only rendered works. Game mechanics are an idea, no help here. But your code, artwork, media, and game executable are protected by copyright by default.
  • Trademark
    Doesn't apply to you, unless you trademarked RTS, MMORPG, or FPS or something like that.
  • Tradesecret
    Your game will no longer be a secret the moment you share it.
  • Patent
    You can't patent ideas. You see this all the time with movie scripts. A particularly talented writer brings an awesome idea to one of the big producers. They like the idea but not the price. They rip off the script's ideas with out copying the script (which is protected by copyright). This is how come the movie industry seems to run in waves, eg The Prestige and The Illusionist.
    However, software patent law is sufficiently fubar'd that you can patent ideas if you "limit" you claim to an implementation on particular hardware (eg a computer, any computer). This is EVIL.

Two examples of evil patents that are being up held and effecting the game industry.

Direction arrows above cars are patented in racing games. IE you're racing you get knocked off course, the arrow points the way towards the course/goal. Every game that uses this mechanic needs to pay royalties to Sega of America.

A ghost racer is time trials. IE you're trying to beat your best time and you race against a ghost version of the current fastest time. Every game that has this mechanic must pay royalties to Midway games.

I repeat software patents are sick and evil.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You will need lots of money, however. Money to hire lawyers, money to sue people for copyright infringement, money to apply for trademarks and patents in every country in the world, and money to sue more people. \$\endgroup\$ – 5ound Nov 18 '10 at 2:44

I dig for some information on the question i asked and got some more info on how to protect the Game Code and Game Assests.

Copyright is the best way to protect the code/art assests.It clearly protects the game code and taking even a portion of the game code and using it in some other context is a copyright violation if it is not your material. However, it is more the code as a whole that is protected and not simply the individual pieces. If one line of code is identical in two separate games, there is unlikely to be a violation. If entire chunks are the same throughout, there could be a possible lawsuit.

Read more: Video Game Copyright Laws | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/list_6011584_video-game-copyright-laws.html#ixzz15XlkEYcb

Also, as i wanted to what exactly can be copyrighted, i got clear idea of what and how to copyright: http://www.copyright.in/register_copyright_deposit.html

  • \$\begingroup\$ Copyright can protect the actual source or data, but not the game "concepts", that (rightly) can't be copyrighted. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Nov 17 '10 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's possible to copyright "look and feel" - or at least attempt to do so. It's also possible (though it seems to be rare these days) to patent game mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – JasonD Nov 17 '10 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Copyright and patents are two completely different and unrelated things. You don't "copyright" things: copyright is automatic. And it does not cover "look and feel" of course. Patents are a mess and it is possible to patent pretty much anything, even if it doesn't make sense: in the end, who throws more money into the lawsuit will win regardless of any possible common sense (so just give up). \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Nov 17 '10 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps my comment was badly worded, but I stand by the sentiment. People have been successfully sued for copying the look and feel of software. People have also successfully defended themselves, and in many other cases people have settled when challenged. But it's certainly not safe to assume that copyright does not apply to look and feel. \$\endgroup\$ – JasonD Nov 17 '10 at 14:27

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