materials the user can alter

From: Greg Yukl <gyukl[_at_]>
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 09:19:25 -0400 (EDT)

<long questions follow>

Suppose someone writes some sort of computer based starship combat game. Suppose further that the game does not use any copyrighted terms or images but does allow the user to easily change the terms and images used in the game. For example, the programer might call a weapon system a "laser gun", which a user could change to a "phaser" (a "Star Trek" term, the copyright to which is held by somebody) to give the game a "Star Trek" feel. Would the programmer be in violation of copyright for producing and distributing this game? Would the user be in violation for changing the terms /images used in the game, provided they did so in the privacy of their own home?

Suppose a company holds the copyright to a science fiction television series, and has licensed the right to use some of the terms and images to another company, which makes tabletop strategy games loosely based upon the series. Suppose then someone writes a computer-based tool to help with some of the lengthy paperwork and dice rolling involved in the tabletop games. The tool itself does not use any terms from the series, but does allow the user to customize the terms it uses. Further, the tool does not have any apparant use or value other than for use with this game, and changing the terms used to the terms from the game (copyrighted in turn by the licensing company) would be neccesary for the user to conveniently use it. Would the programmer be in violation of copyright if he were to distribute this tool as freeware on the net? Would he be in violation if he were to use the tool (already customized to include copyrighted terms) in the presence of a group of his friends? Would users of this tool be in violation of copyright when they did the customization?

Greg Yukl
Received on Wed Sep 04 1996 - 13:18:46 GMT

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