So i'm developing a small video game for class and for reasons we need to stay away from copyright material. I was wondering if I would have to worry about old WW2 planes being considered copyright material? I could just make some fantasy inspired planes, but i believe having them in the game could be a lot of fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Specific to WW2 planes, I doubt that there is any kind of licensing needed to produce a textured model of that type. You would not want to use the "Boeing", "Lockheed", etc. logos without permission, but the vehicle's shape, the "USAF" logo and similar decals are all probably public-domain. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Apr 15 '15 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jon I don't think this is correct. Virtually all military aircraft, even WW2 ones, are designed by private companies, so you'd need permission to reproduce the design even if you exclude the logos. You also have the problem that even if the design is free to use, someone's particular 3D model may be copyrighted anyway. It's probably safest to find something explicitly public domain, or model a generic WW2 plane yourself. That said, copyrights for any designs created prior to 1945 are probably expired due to the 70-year limit (I doubt they would have been renewed). \$\endgroup\$ – MooseBoys Apr 15 '15 at 1:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MooseBoys, you might be right. It seems like media professionals would never publish anything if they had to get permission for everything; i.e. a jet flying behind a live news report. Idk.. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Apr 15 '15 at 1:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jon News reporting is explicitly exempt from copyright in many cases due to being considered fair use. \$\endgroup\$ – MooseBoys Apr 15 '15 at 3:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MooseBoys, a surprisingly fascinating read! It seems that we could make more than a few arguments for modeling any type of vehicle we want. I cannot see a video game model making any impact on the ability of manufacturers to design and sell vehicles. Also, the external shape of the vehicle represents only a small "amount" of the overall design. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Apr 15 '15 at 3:56

a small video game for class?

I think that copyright issues are not going to be a problem, unless you are going to try and sell it or make it something more than a project for a class. I would say do it, and there should not be any issue with it. If it blows up into something huge later, then read on...

I was wondering if I would have to worry about old WW2 planes being considered copyright material?

For an actual commercial game, I would say, you have two ways to go about it...

  1. You can contact the IP holder (ie Boeing) and ask them if you can use one of their products in your game. This can be a huge pain (getting brand names to do much of anything), and even though you are giving them free advertising, it will cost you a pretty penny and many companies want to have the final say before your game is released and will reserve the right to withdraw their IP on a whim whenever they so wish.
  2. You can take some artistic licenses and make your own plane that is loosely based on the one from real life (instead of using the 'Boeing P-12', just call it a 'P-17' or something other than the 'Boeing P-12').

I would strongly suggest against using trademarked products in your game without doing one of those above things... namely the second one (which has the least amount of risk and wasted time associated with it).

If for your class, you make a small project and it has some ww2 period historically accurate planes in it (even by model name), I just don't see that being a problem, but even in the worst case scenario, the IP holder MUST first ask you to take the infringing content out of your game (before they try and defend their IP in court), - if that happens, do it, and then just change the name and the assets a little bit to something non-infringing, then you should be golden.

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.


Typical copyright laws apply. If you are using content created by someone else, you should ALWAYS get permission and pay any licensing and/or royalty fees. The licensing agreement will spell out, in great detail, exactly how and how-not, to use the content. The minimum requirement for most/all agreements is "giving credit" although the specific wording is usually vague. You are required to accept a license agreement when installing software and when creating accounts on content sites; you should read them! Many people just click next, next, next, finish, and get disappointed, or in trouble, later. A good rule-of-thumb is that the licensing fee is always cheaper than a lawsuit.

There are sites with "free" content. That means that you do not have to pay money for access to them, but does not automatically imply that you may use and/or redistribute them for your own profit.

Content that YOU MAKE, may be "free", not free, and even "free" stops as soon as YOU make money. If your product will cost money, you are probably restricted from using most/all "free" content, including "game engines", "development tools", textures, models, sounds. Unity, a development tool, is "free", but forces you to display their splash screen to your end users. This could also manifest as a "watermark" across every texture you create until you buy "pro".

Since you state that this is for educational purposes only and have no intention of selling the finished product, you can probably "borrow" just about anything you want.


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