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I'm thinking of developing a game for iOS which will ship with fake sports personality data. So, for argument sake, let's say fake football player names.

On OS X and Windows games like this often allow for users to install fan-made databases - which essentially overwrites the game's default data with (fan-made) "real word" data, thus circumventing intellectual property / likeness usage issues for the developer(s).

Is this legal?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking if this would legally work? or are you asking if replacing the data would work? The answer to the latter is, of course, if you design it that way. What's your specific problem when you try to implement this? Broad, open-ended questions like asking for examples of how someone else did it aren't likely to help you. You should instead attempt to do this yourself and then ask specific questions about the problems you encounter. \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, updated question. \$\endgroup\$
    – jmat
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The "technical feasibility" portion of your question is too broad (and a very different question than the legal one). The short answer is "yes." A longer answer would need more specifics about your particular implementation, as a separate question. I've removed it from this particular question. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems relevant: even former dictators could sue you if they aren’t pleased with how you depict them \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 13:40

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For a definitive answer to this question, you should consult a lawyer that deals in intellectual property issues. He or she can advise you on the specific legal issues and the options you have to help protect yourself.

So, with the caveat that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice:

While it may appear that this is okay, given the wide variety of user-created mods you can find for various games that incorporate the likenesses of famous people or characters from popular games, et cetera, this is generally still considered a violation of one or more intellectual property laws (depending on what one is actually doing, the legal jurisdiction involved, and so on).

By supplying only the tools to potentially commit infringement, and allowing users to generate the infringing content yourself, you might not be directly culpable for the infringement. That said, in many jurisdictions (such as the US) you can be sued for just about anything. If somebody found this post and traced it back to your game, for which somebody had made an infringing mod for, they could in theory file suit against you or include you in a lawsuit for being complacent or for intentionally facilitating the IP infringement.

If you look, in fact, you'll find that many of the "big name" games that support modding include clauses in their license agreements requiring you, the user, not to make content that infringes upon somebody else's intellectual property rights. For example, the Skyrim Creation Kit EULA includes this passage in section 1 ("Restrictions on Use"):

You shall not create any New Materials that infringe upon the rights of others, or that are libelous, defamatory, harassing, or threatening, and You shall comply with all applicable laws in connection with the New Materials.

Thus, you should consult a lawyer to discuss your options and whatever necessary verbiage you should add to your own EULA to help protect yourself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to add in that while not popular in the game industry there has been a lot of cases in the US where providers and the like have been charged for assistance of copyright infringment. That is, if you build the tools around the concept of infringing copyright and you're proven to have done so, you're in for some hot water. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 17:44

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