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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessSame style or plagiarism?
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Binaryvector
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« on: September 24, 2012, 04:51:46 AM »

I'm not sure if this fits better to the arts or to the business forum.
Since it's a bunch of legal questions, I posted it to business.

Hey guys,
I've looked a bit on Google at the copyright situation in my country (Germany) but I think it's about the same in others.
Since only concrete work and not ideas are protected by copyright, it's legal to copy a style.
Eg. it's legal to draw like Picasso or van Gogh etc.

But where's the difference between copying the style of sprites and a "modified copy" of a sprite?
One could easily say something like:
"If you copy the sprite, modify it and say it's your own work, its plagiarism.
If you pixel the sprite (starting with an empty image) but with the original sprite in mind, it's a copy of style".

But what if your sprite still looks like you merely modified the original, although you pixeled it on your own?
There isn't much freedom in 16x16 tiles, if you want to use the same style.


My actual problem:
My current project is a Pokemon parody. It's supposed to look like the GBA versions, so the player feels like he is playing one of the "older" pkmn games but is then ripped out of his immersion by his Geodude drowning, when trying to fight on the ocean (it's a rock, duh!).
So I analyzed the style of the Pokemon tiles and tried to create my own but I feel they are too similiar.
I think if I should get sued by Nintendo/Game Freak, a court will count my sprites/tiles as plagiarism.

Examples:
the right image is from firered/leafgreen; the left is mine


They are pretty similiar but I think that's because there isn't much on the tile.
Green background with one brighter and one darker tuft of grass.
I even wonder if this tile reaches the artistic level to be protected by copyright. lol



the right is a screenshot from diamond/pearl


I tried to pixel a tree based on the left image. It's my own work besides of the color palette.
But isn't it still a copy, even if I use other colors?
I was looking at the left image while pixeling my tree. Doesn't that make it a copy?
...like copying your neighbors work in school?


right is from fr/lg again, center is the same in my palette (for comparisson), left is mine


So the original uses ~3 colors for the slope tiles and ~3 brighter colors for the even ones.
I think it's perfect, because it's different from the original in color and form but still looks like a pokemon rock/mountain.
(not counting the shadow, its the same because all shadows in the game need to be the same color)


right fr/lg, left mine



This image is a great example of my problem!
I created a house with:
-some kind of pillars left and right
-sloping roof left and right but the center is even
-same color for outlines and shadows regardles of the color beneath
-double windows
-door on the right

Besides of some colors, I created the right sprite on my own, but it looks like I merely streched some parts and changed the color of the walls and the roof.
They ended up so similiar because of the 16x16 tile system and because I use approximately the same size for houses/characters.
That's why the door, window, roof etc ended up in the same tile and thus the same place.



So right now I want to hear your opinions.
Where's the border between copy of style and plagiarism.
What could I do, to create less smiliar sprites without losing the pokemon style?

What about the fact, my project is a parody?
Parodies are allowed to kinda copy but I'm not sure, how much that is in a videogame context.
Names? Graphics? Music? Sounds?
What about formulas? Eg. stats and damage calculations?

Greetings Binaryvector
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starsrift
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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 06:51:34 AM »

I'd feel comfortable with the grass. Why? It's effing grass, that's goddamn why. And plainly, their tufts are depicted by four lines instead of your three.

The tree would feel really uncomfortable. I can't tell the difference between the two. That said, trees are a bitch to depict, whether you're working in pixels or models, it's nearly impossible to have it winding up to look just like the trees in 'X'.

The mountain thing? I'd also feel uncomfortable, there's a hundred better ways to differently depict that and it's unnecessarily close.

The houses I feel totally comfortable with. Different shape and colors, though I might rearrange which side the door is on, just to be sure.

/ I am not a pokemon player
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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2012, 10:15:47 AM »

My rule of thumb is that if you show someone relatively familiar with the inspiration your work and they identify it as a piece of art from that work then it's probably too close.

Parodies are an odd thing legally, I don't know much about them other than a little bit of vagueness so I won't comment on precisely what is acceptable.

Names - Using the same names is a no-no in my mind, similar names or those constructed in a similar fashion are probably okay for a parody.

Graphics - As I said above staying too close to the source material is likely a bad idea. I think for you, what you need to do is have a look at the Pokémon Roms with custom sprites that float around and compare your existing work to them. These Roms generally are trying to look like Pokémon sprites and if yours look too similar they could likely be mistaken for such in screenshots or promotional art.

Music and Sounds - Similar to what I've said above similar is probably okay but using copies or slightly modified versions of songs and sounds that appear in the source is a big no.

What about formulas? Eg. stats and damage calculations?
- I'm of the belief that the behind the scenes stuff and the stats you display to the player are perfectly fine to be the same or near identical as they have origins in earlier material. It might be best to make an attempt at modifying these.

I don't do my own graphics and have only rarely dabbled in pixel art so I don't know what you could do to make it feel less Pokémon like, perhaps you should ask on a pixel art forum such as pixeljoint.
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SundownKid
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« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 07:08:33 PM »

You're missing the point - if it's a Pokemon parody, they can sue you even if it doesn't look like Pokemon. I'd say, as long as you don't try to sell it, you should be pretty safe, but any fangame or parody has the inherent risk of getting a cease-and-desist. Don't bother trying to change the sprites, because it basically defeats the point - unless you change the structure of the game, it would probably still be identifiable as Pokemon-esque.
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Binaryvector
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2012, 03:59:20 AM »

I finally managed to get some advice from a lawyer.
Since Germany lacks a law regarding parodies, my game must rather be identified as a new game, than a fangame.

Quote
It's supposed to look like the GBA versions, so the player feels like he is playing one of the "older" pkmn games
is NOT ok!
Neither the graphical style nor the gameplay should be identical. The player mustn't "feel like he is playing one of the "older" pkmn games" but he can have some kind of "hey, i know that from somewhere"-moments.
So a game about catching and training animals/monsters in which stones can suddenly float on water is fine.

Kinda difficult to explain with my minor english skills but @[email protected] pretty much summs up the conversation I had.
Quote
My rule of thumb is that if you show someone relatively familiar with the inspiration your work and they identify it as a piece of art from that work then it's probably too close.

So unluckily my previous efforts on pixeling are kinda wasted, but at least i had some practice. Wink
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Fallsburg
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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2012, 05:05:06 AM »

You're missing the point - if it's a Pokemon parody, they can sue you even if it doesn't look like Pokemon. I'd say, as long as you don't try to sell it, you should be pretty safe, but any fangame or parody has the inherent risk of getting a cease-and-desist. Don't bother trying to change the sprites, because it basically defeats the point - unless you change the structure of the game, it would probably still be identifiable as Pokemon-esque.

You don't understand the legality of parody, do you?  Parodies ARE legal under fair-use laws.  That's why something like Dorkly or whatever is ok.  But the fine line between parody and clone can be a fuzzy one, and while one might win a court case, one typically doesn't have the legal might (or money) to stand against a company for very long.

But, I mean, look Gameloft.  Their entire business model is making games that look and act just like other, more well known, games.  It's scummy, but legal.
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« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2012, 08:14:45 AM »

Generally, it's bad if it tries to sell itself as something by the same people. A parody is ok in most places, because it distinguishes itself strongly from the original.

A fangame is a legal minefield. Especially one that tries to sell off as some kind of sequel/alternate timeline... that's exactly what copyright laws are designed to protect against.
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ranathomson
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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2018, 10:48:20 PM »

I same on top of staying too about to the supply material is probably going a nasty plan. i feel for you, what you wish to try to to is have a glance at the Pokémon Roms with custom sprites that float around and compare your existing work to them. These Roms usually are attempting to appear like Pokémon sprites and if yours look too similar they might doubtless be mistaken for such in screenshots or promotional art. do not hassle attempting to vary the sprites, as a result of it essentially defeats the purpose - unless you modify the structure of the sport, it'd in all probability still Pokemon-esque.
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