I've been developing a prototype for a game that has been made with art that I have neither paid for or asked for permission to use. Naturally once I move towards selling or distributing my ad-supported game, I'll need to replace the art with its licensed equivalent, or pay for my own.

This is generally how game engines work, with you using an unlicensed copy until you release and start to make money off of it, so I thought maybe it would be the same in the game art world.

Can I legally develop and say, start a kickstarter, using a game with unlicensed art?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because asking for legal advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Feb 24, 2015 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Posting screenshots with art you do not own on kickstarter or anywhere else is copyright infringement. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Feb 24, 2015 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Byte56 what is the proper SE to post this to? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 24, 2015 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ There isn't really a "legal issues" StackExchange; you should probably consult an actual lawyer. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Feb 24, 2015 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


To perform any revenue-generating activity with content that you do not have permission to use in that way is going to invite trouble.

I'd recommend asking for permission, creating your own content, or seeking out content with permissive licenses (like things you can find on opengameart.org )

In general, if you can add "(or stolen)" as a synonym for anything you're doing, as you did in your question heading, it's a good sign that it's sketchy and not something you should be doing as a responsible creator.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even without the legal question, as a person who occasionally backs projects, if it looks to me like you're not willing to invest in your own project (buying a few pre-made assets or hiring someone to create just enough for your demo) then I'm not going to invest in your project either. \$\endgroup\$
    – LLL79
    Feb 24, 2015 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Funding is not profit, but I see your point. Do you have any sources for your answer that I can read for more information? I also edited out the 'or stolen' part of the title, because it's just redundancy. Unlicensed == stolen to me. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 24, 2015 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ The word "profit" is relative. Replace "profit-generating" with "revenue-generating" in his explanation. \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Feb 24, 2015 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks jhocking. TankorSmash, if what you're talking about is, in your own definition, stealing, then do you really need an external source to tell you it's bad business policy? ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Feb 25, 2015 at 3:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TankorSmash No, because your question asks about unlicensed art. Without a license you must not do anything with the work. When you use a graphic engine which is free until you publish, it is licensed to you under a license agreement which says "free unless you publish" (that was that long text you clicked "Next" on during the install). When you find graphics with a license which says "free to use until you make money", go for it. But make sure that the exact definition of "making money" also excludes collecting money through crowdfunding. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Feb 25, 2015 at 21:19

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