Recently, there has been some debate on violating copyright on some of the social platforms (specifically in regards to the game Memoir ’44). I would like to state up front, I am not a lawyer but…I certainly have had a considerable interest in the subject ever since I started creating extra materials for games. Here is what I understand so far…
You cannot copyright a game – it doesn’t meet the criteria for copyright. So if I decided to make up my own game that is similar to an already published game, that is perfectly ok so long as I don’t infringe on their copyright. A good example of this was my creation of Dire Heroes.
Copyright pertains to the creation of the content itself – I can’t, for example, use the Days of Wonder scenario generator to make a scenario then sell that scenario. Not because it is a Memoir ’44 scenario (more on that in a bit) but because they own the copyright to the images used to make that scenario (well, that and they have you agree to their terms before you can even get the editor to make it in the first place…you’ll note, thanks to my Dire Heroes they’ve added the clause that you won’t make other games with it either now!). However, in theory, I could create my own graphics from scratch and sell the scenarios but then I would have a new problem, Trademarks!
Trademarks prevent confusion about brand – So if I made a game, scenarios etc… that don’t violate the copyright, I can still run into trouble here. I can’t pretend to be another brand and must declare even on a mere mention of Memoir ’44 that ‘Memoir ’44 is a Trademark of Days of Wonder’.
So as I understand it, I could create, for example, a Memoir ’44 campaign book. All of the content would need to be created entirely by me (I can’t even duplicate any of their existing rules I can only reference them…and declare the trademark). I could then sell it…but the law here is still a little murky and Days of Wonder could still pursue legal action (nothing stopping that anyway)…and I’m not even sure they would win but it just doesn’t seem worth the risk. Honestly, it takes a lot of work to create something like a campaign book and while I might make a few bucks I would likely lose that and more in legal fights.
Short answer here, don’t bother. Create content if it’s your passion and simply share it. That’s what I mostly do. The hook here is again, it takes a lot of work to produce something nice and if there is nothing in it other than a community ‘thanks’ (which I do appreciate, it just doesn’t pay my bills) then it likely won’t get done…or not properly.
All that being said, I would like to reiterate, this is just my current understanding. If anyone can enlighten me on any of the above professionally, I would love to hear from you.