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Would my game violate the copyright law?  RSS feed

 
Ahmad Auada
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I found a simple android game on google play, basically a math game.
Here is a screenshot , it's called "freaking math":


I wanted to challenge my self, and decided to make something similar(this is just a basic layout that I will improve later):


as you can see they look very similar, and the mechanisms of both games are not very different. But I didn't copy the original game's code. Would it be ok to put this thing on google play?

 
Stephan van Hulst
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It depends on the license of the original game, but if their license forbids it, then your game would probably violate it.

Read their license, and when in doubt, you can contact the original creator. They may allow it if you credit the original.
 
Stephan van Hulst
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I Googled around a bit, and you might be able to host your app on Google play under the Fair Use policy. I'd still credit the original game, but just be warned that Google may take down your app at any time.
 
Ahmad Auada
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thanks!
 
Les Morgan
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Ahmad,

I have been round and round with this, here is what I have come to the conclusion of:

1--Were you inspired by someone else's app? (inspiration is not automatiacally a copyright violation)
2--Did you review the documentation of the other product, or use, and base your product on it's functionality without giving significant new features?
3--Did you consult with the developer or an agent of the developer and use their ideas in your product (you stole his intellectual genius).
4--Did you in whole or part see the structure, raw code, screens, or any part of the project and incorporate them into your project?

I would say you have 1, 2, and maybe 4, but without having actual code segments being the same copyright infringement is difficult to prove. The placement of your numbers seems to be a natural progression for a phone app, but not having an equal sign, the numbers in the same place, and the functionality of the app there may be a valid point made.

Copyright does not guarantee that someone will not come out with the same product as you. It is possible for people working independently to never interact and come up with the same product--if that be the case, there will probably be a court battle over who came to market first and proof to be made that no infringement was made. Proving that you did and proving the you didn't becomes a very tenuous process in that case, but none the less, Calculus was invented by 2 different people who didn't interact--Newton and Leibniz (BTW: there is discussion on this even to this day). The same can be true of other products.

So you have to look honestly at what you did--did you do more than receive inspiration from the other app? Did you bring out a significantly better functionality based on your own creative genius? Or was it the case you made an app basically like what you saw?

If it's the latter, then you may have a rough path ahead of you should the original author decide to press for infringement.
 
Stevens Miller
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Les Morgan wrote:without having actual code segments being the same copyright infringement is difficult to prove.


Well, try this: MB creates a board game called, "Word Nerds." It involves filling in squares on the board with a finite set of tiles that have letters on them. The letters must intersect other letters (except in the very first word) like in a crossword puzzle, and they must meet a nerdy definition provided from a stack of cards with one nerdy definition on each card. Note that Word Nerds is not played on a computer, has no software component, and is protected by copyright law. If P writes a program that displays a Word Nerds board, supplies nerdy definitions that P made up (none of which are copied from the cards in Word Nerds), and allows the players to fill in words from a finite collection of letters, enforcing the requirement that the letters must intersect other letters (except in the very first word) like in a crossword puzzle, has P infringed on MB's copyrights in Word Nerds? I would say that P has certainly done so, even tough P's program has no actual code segments being the same as MB has, since MB never wrote any code.

My point being that copyright law protects much more than just code when it is applied to software.
 
Les Morgan
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Not necessarily. If P were able to come up with the game idea and implementation on P's own, then there in reality is no copyright infringement. P used his own genius to produce a witty game which had already been in production by another. The problem that is going to be faced is: what can P prove and what can Milton Bradley prove to the satisfaction of a judge's discretion? Would there be a court battle--probably so and almost assuredly. Would copyright infringement be found--depends on the proof. MB undoubtedly came to market first, but that does not ban another from bringing out the labors of his genius. The trick there is that P cannot have been influenced by MB game in any way. In reality, if P can show that he has claim that supersedes MB, perhaps P's family invented the game centuries ago and it is recorded for posterity in his great great grandmother's journal, then MB would end up paying P royalties, but in any case, if P can prove he was not influenced by the game produced by MB, then there is no copyright infringement.

In the case you point out, it would be more P's challenge and tribulation to prove he didn't gain any inspiration from the MB game.

As for the original post, I still have to fall back on my statement: "without having actual code segments being the same copyright infringement is difficult to prove."

If you want to see an interesting case of patent right, then look up the invention of the delayed wipers for automobiles. Ford and the US auto industry vs a lone inventor. A movie was even made a few years back about it. There were many battles to prove who had the right there. BTW: Ford came to market first and was followed by all the US auto manufacturers.

Stevens Miller wrote:
Les Morgan wrote:without having actual code segments being the same copyright infringement is difficult to prove.


Well, try this: MB creates a board game called, "Word Nerds." It involves filling in squares on the board with a finite set of tiles that have letters on them. The letters must intersect other letters (except in the very first word) like in a crossword puzzle, and they must meet a nerdy definition provided from a stack of cards with one nerdy definition on each card. Note that Word Nerds is not played on a computer, has no software component, and is protected by copyright law. If P writes a program that displays a Word Nerds board, supplies nerdy definitions that P made up (none of which are copied from the cards in Word Nerds), and allows the players to fill in words from a finite collection of letters, enforcing the requirement that the letters must intersect other letters (except in the very first word) like in a crossword puzzle, has P infringed on MB's copyrights in Word Nerds? I would say that P has certainly done so, even tough P's program has no actual code segments being the same as MB has, since MB never wrote any code.

My point being that copyright law protects much more than just code when it is applied to software.
 
Stevens Miller
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Les Morgan wrote:Not necessarily. If P were able to come up with the game idea and implementation on P's own, then there in reality is no copyright infringement.

Yes, that's true. Independent creation is a complete defense to copyright infringement. I guess I should have been explicit about that, but I thought my hypothetical made it obvious that P was basing his work on MB's product.

... perhaps P's family invented the game centuries ago and it is recorded for posterity in his great great grandmother's journal, then MB would end up paying P royalties...

Heh. Funny idea, but copyrights actually don't last that long.

As for the original post, I still have to fall back on my statement: "without having actual code segments being the same copyright infringement is difficult to prove."

I wouldn't put my faith in that advice. They are sufficiently similar that a jury could easily conclude that it is more likely than not that the latter is a copy of the former.

Our OP, Ahmad, said, "I wanted to challenge my self, and decided to make something similar [to Freaking Math]." That eliminates the independent creation defense.

If you want to see an interesting case of patent right, then look up the invention of the delayed wipers for automobiles.

Patent law is quite different from copyright law. For one thing, independent creation is not a defense to patent infringment.

Ahmad, if you can write an Android application that does what Freaking Math does, then you clearly have the skills needed to do a lot of other things. I'd suggest you look at a few more games, and see if they give you some inspiration that you can use to come up with something that is really new. Not only does that avoid this issue, it means you will have the copyrights to your own game.

Good luck!
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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