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Licensing an Abandonware Game?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the rolling-the-dice dept.

Open Source 148

WolverineOfLove writes "I'm recreating a 1980s abandonware game with copyrights that have been seemingly unused for the past 18 years. The situation is detailed further in a Slashdot journal entry I just wrote, but in short: Is it worth dealing with all the copyrights and paying money if I want to recreate an abandonware title as an open source game? I know there are legal implications to certain decisions I might make, but there is a real possibility that this game's copyright holder will do nothing with the rights, and I'd much prefer preserving it for others than letting it fade away."

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Contact the Owners (5, Insightful)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462344)

Contact the owners and ask them if they mind. You might be surprised.

Re:Contact the Owners (1, Redundant)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462414)

Contact.... Do you want to find out the owner is a patent troll before or after you do a lot of coding?

Re:Contact the Owners (0)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463076)

Patent troll? So they...

1. Make a game.
2. Spend thousands to copyright it AND patent it.
3. Abandon and wait for someone to freeware a derivative.
4. Profit!

Just wanted to point that out. I think you are confused about the difference in patents and copyrights. Or just confused.

Re:Contact the Owners (1)

cybernanga (921667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464532)

Patent troll? So they...

1. Make a game.
2. Spend thousands to copyright it AND patent it.
3. Abandon and wait for someone to freeware a derivative.
4. Profit!

Just wanted to point that out. I think you are confused about the difference in patents and copyrights. Or just confused.

No, they could be a patent troll if they did the following:

1. Purchase the copyright of an abandoned game.
2. Wait for someone to freeware a derivative.
3. Hit the courts.
4. Profit!

Re:Contact the Owners (4, Insightful)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462442)

Not only might they surprise, they might even be supportive!

If they aren't, then at least one has learned that you'll want to alter enough things so they won't succeed in complaining. (Or loses could be cut now before time is invested...)

Either answer they give is a win.

PS: Document attempts to contact in case they don't respond, at least you can show a good faith attempt.

1980s abandonware copyrights unused for 18 years (4, Funny)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463162)

Gosh, you are trying to code Duke Nukem Forewer on your own ????

Re:1980s abandonware copyrights unused for 18 year (1)

obarel (670863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463220)

If he can publish anything, even a Tetris clone would be better than what we have at the moment...

"Duke Nukem Forever: Attack of the Tetrominoes"

Re:Contact the Owners (4, Interesting)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462574)

I very much agree. If you want to remake the game I can only assume that you enjoy playing it and have some respect for the game. Show the original authors that respect and contact them; the game represents a great deal of effort on their part and deserves a dialog. From your description of the situation in you journal entry, the author would probably enjoy hearing of your interest and you could ask them what the position of the copyright holder is on the subject and discuss options.

Re:Contact the Owners (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463910)

Contact the owners and ask them if they mind. You might be surprised.

I'd add talking to an IP lawyer as the law can get quite complex. The original owners may not even own the rights anymore; so it's important to figure out who really owns them.

Forget about the copyright (5, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462346)

Make your new game. Don't use any exact names or words from the original. By all means select your names so that people know this is a successor to the original.

After all, open office exists along side microsoft office. Afterstep came after nextstep. You need a name like "afterstep" so that people know what you are on about.

Re:Forget about the copyright (0, Offtopic)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462434)

Damn it!
I have a mod point and I don't know whether to call you a troll or insightful.
touche.

Re:Forget about the copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462506)

The goal of AfterStep development is...improving aestetics...

Ha HA! Wow, I'm so pining for the good old days of IRIX, when windows had mouse-over focus, before computers had spellecheckers and PR teams knew how to spell aesthetics.

Afterstep = afterthought.

Re:Forget about the copyright (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463850)

when windows had mouse-over focus

Like this [howtogeek.com] ? Or this [blogspot.com] for XP?

Re:Forget about the copyright (1)

Raptor851 (1557585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462536)

^ This Strip any copied text/dialogs, etc, and re-make it as a clone in the spirit of the origional, you can release the full game without the worries of using their copyright at all. (unless it's an RPG or text adventure,then you're in for a lot of work :/ )

Re:Forget about the copyright (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462602)

Also don't reuse any designs, whether level or character (or whatever else populates that particular gameworld).

Re:Forget about the copyright (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31463298)

Safest way to do it. A few years ago Xcom and a few other games were considered abandonware, then the BSA came and you had to pay for an ancient game, not a remake ... so it's safer to just bypass the whole legal mess. In XCom's case a series of games appeared with mostly the same theme and gameplay called UFO. And as far as I know they have no troubles from them.

Re:Forget about the copyright (4, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463514)

After all, open office exists along side microsoft office.

And there's OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org] , which is a completely different product from Open Office. Which brings us right back to copyrights and all that...

Re:Forget about the copyright (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31464190)

Sorry, doesn't work that way. There is no innovation in open source, only re-implementations of existing commercial products. I know this is a soft spot for FOSS supporters, but no matter how you turn it, it's true. However, I never said open source never produces *good* re-implementations.

Open source works best when faced with "technical" issues. E.g. software emulator of old computers, web browsers (for example, while Firefox is arguably a half-decent browser, there's nothing innovative about it at all), game ports, window managers, office suits among others.

Patents (3, Insightful)

bbqsrc (1441981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462376)

As long as it isn't covered by a dreaded software patent, you should be fine. Software patents need to die in a fire.

Re:Patents (3, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462556)

If he's trying to recreate a game from the 1980s, any relevant patents would have already expired by now.

Re:Patents (1)

bbqsrc (1441981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462562)

That isn't to say a patent for the very same thing hasn't been reapplied for in the time that has passed.

Re:Patents (3, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462636)

Not necessarily. It depends on the issue date of the patent.

In particular, if issuance of the patent was delayed, it may be issued for longer than 20 years.

For instance, if the patent was filed for in 1994 and issued in 2000, it could be 7 more years before it will expire, PLUS a number of additional years, according to the issuance delay.

Also, some special types of patents (as in gov' patents) can get terms much longer than 20 years.

Assuming is not good here, unless you have looked up the patents in question, you cannot really be sure they would have expired by now.

Re:Patents (3, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462580)

What about copyright? You might rapidly discover that `abandonware` is a meaningless term legally; not only that, but that a company owns the rights to the game and will come after you for a lot of money should your game before profitable for them to do so.

Re:Patents (4, Informative)

bbqsrc (1441981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462590)

Abandonware can mean that the company that owned the copyrights no longer exists, and the ownership of the copyright is in limbo. Look at Transport Tycoon for example. The copyright was transferred to a company from a company that no longer exists to a company that no longer exists, and thus nobody can defend the copyright to the game. This is the epitome of abandonware and it's what allowed OpenTTD to exist.

Re:Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462614)

Surely Chris Sawyer would have made inquiries into the legal status of (the actual) TTD? He would have eminently reasonable justifications for wanting ownership over the copyright, given that everyone else involved is gone.

Re:Patents (1)

bbqsrc (1441981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462626)

I believe this had occurred; I remember a discussion about it within the OpenTTD community on IRC — a few years back — about talking to Sawyer, but apparently it was found he had no legal recourse to sue OpenTTD. I wish I had the logs.

Re:Patents (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463436)

Well, if he signed away copyright to it the right will revert to him after 30 years or so, but that's a log way off still.

Re:Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31463326)

AFAIK Duration of a software patent is 20 years from the earliest claimed filing date, in the U.S. at least.

That means in two years time youre in the clear on any patent entanglement, at least if you stay true to the original and do not use new methods of achieving the same means that are oh so innovative that the trolls just have to protect it in order to hold develeopment back for the next 20-35 years depending on the duration of the lawsuit....

Good thing Sir Isac Newton didn't patent gravity, or we'd all just be hanging around....

The Game Is More Than The Code (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463840)

As long as it isn't covered by a dreaded software patent, you should be fine. Software patents need to die in a fire.

The gamer-geek will be pursuing other game assets which may be independently licensed and legally protected: character designs and props, background art, music and audio effects, story, script, dialog, vocal performance, and so on.

I've heard music composed and performed for the LucasArts adventures used in Disney television animation.

Talk to people who have done it before (5, Insightful)

C4st13v4n14 (1001121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462380)

These guys have done exactly what you're aiming to do. You should probably get on their forums and talk to them for some insight. You should also check out their remake, it's a really good game! Warzone 2100 [wz2100.net]

Re:Talk to people who have done it before (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462390)

I can second talking to other projects that have done similar things, such as the team behind UQM* or OpenTTD**.

* http://sc2.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
** http://www.openttd.org/en/ [openttd.org]

Re:Talk to people who have done it before (2, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462394)

UQM is different in that it was an actual open-sourcing of the code to Star Control 2.

The code is open source, the assets are free-as-in-beer (as in free to distribute with the game but not free to modify)

Only things they cant use are some music tracks and cinematics they dont own the rights to plus the actual "Star Control" name (which the publisher owns)

Re:Talk to people who have done it before (0, Offtopic)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463930)

On the internet, you can actually turn words [sourceforge.net] into links [openttd.org] . I believe this technology is referred to as "Hypertext [wikipedia.org] ."

Re:Talk to people who have done it before (1)

zaydana (729943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462530)

Warzone 2100 is different because it was the people who owned the copyright who released the code first for other people to work on, not other people asking the owners to release the copyright.

You're right about the remake being good though. It was one of my favourite games back in the day, and I was incredibly surprised to find I could download it and now play it on my mac without any hitches, probably smoother than the original ran in windows.

Re:Talk to people who have done it before (1)

Ogi_UnixNut (916982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462718)

Yeah, but if I remember correctly, at one point Pumpkin studio's (or the new company that bought them) released all the source once the community asked for it. All they kept was things like in-game movies etc... which were owned by third parties so could not be open sourced.

And I also have to agree that the remake is good. Not only is it more stable than the original, but they have made improvements to gameplay. It was one of my favourite games back in the day as well, and it's cool now that I can play it on any of my linux machines without needing wine or something. Great game!

Re:Talk to people who have done it before (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463594)

No. No no no no no. Do you know how many hours of my life I have lost to that game? You son of a bitch! Why would you do this to me?! T_T

Makes one wonder... (3, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462398)

What would 3DRealms do if someone just went ahead and wrote / released an open source version of Duke Nukem Forever.

Re:Makes one wonder... (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462408)

Duke Sue'em Forever

Re:Makes one wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462488)

Well, we would probably have something called "Duke Nuclear", which would be a Quake 3 clone with a 90lbs squeaky geek doing "The Duke's" voice.

Re:Makes one wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462554)

no less than 120lbs!

Re:Makes one wonder... (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464394)

Well, we would probably have something called "Duke Nuclear", which would be a Quake 3 clone with a 90lbs squeaky geek doing "The Duke's" voice.

Or Count Dukem for Never!

Re:Makes one wonder... (3, Funny)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462662)

What would 3DRealms do if someone just went ahead and wrote / released an open source version of Duke Nukem Forever.

Make them an offer?

Won't work ... (3, Funny)

freaker_TuC (7632) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463090)

... It would never come out and I'm out of gum..

Re:Makes one wonder... (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463194)

What would 3DRealms do if someone just went ahead and wrote / released an open source version of Duke Nukem Forever.

They would probably announce that they'll sue you soon if you don't stop this. However, the actual sue date would be shifted to the future indefinitely. :-)

Why? (4, Insightful)

urusan (1755332) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462436)

I don't understand why you want to create an exact port of the original game.

If you want to preserve the original game, then use an emulator like DOSBox on the original executables. It will save you a load of time.

If you want to popularize the game, then contact the owners to see if they'll sell it to you or put it under an open license. That way you can redistribute the game for use on emulators without legal worries.

If you want to make something new, then you should really put your energies into a new game inspired by the old one.

By the way, I once made a game that was a clone of a game on a portable system (with the intent of adding Internet play). It was an unexpectedly massive undertaking and by the end I was wondering why I was pouring so much energy into a derivative project that I might have to worry about lawsuits over when I finished it. It's really not worth it. You'll feel better in the end if you spend that time making something new that you can proudly take credit for.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463606)

I'd imagine he wants to make an exact replica of the game for the same reason people build Warhammer battlefields, model train sets, etc. by hand.

Yeah sure, there's something out there you can already buy and get working, but I bet I could make a really good (if not 1:1) replica by myself!

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31464590)

How do you know if it's "really not worth it", when you never even finished the game you said you were making?

SDINAL (4, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462444)

I know there are legal implications to certain decisions I might make, but...

But nothing. You're asking a legal question, you need to go to a legal expert. Slashdotters are not legal experts, they just think they are, and their advice is worse than useless.

Re:SDINAL (-1, Flamebait)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462474)

Actually, some "Slashdotters" ARE legal experts. "NY Country Lawyer" comes to mind. Obviously some, like you, are retarded fuckheads.

Re:SDINAL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462538)

Talk about Internet turning people into pottymouths. Have you tried giving fm6's message a charitable interpretation? You seem to have magic powers, since you can judge someone's personality based on the tiniest bits of evidence.

Re:SDINAL (-1, Offtopic)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462540)

Obviously some, like you, are retarded fuckheads.

It's disheartening the way that the internet - coupled with distance and semi-anonymity - somehow compels people to spew such verbal abuse.
In real life, would you say that sentence to a person that you've only just met?

*sighs*

Re:SDINAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462628)

yes, in many circumstances. Where do you live, in paradise?

Re:SDINAL (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464312)

And if it had been clear the guy was specifically asking for legal advice from a legal expert, you'd have a point. But, as often happens with Ask Slashdots, people ask what they think are general questions but are really requests for legal advice.

Anyway, the place to go for that sort of thing is a site like nolo.com, where people know what they're talking about. One or two actual lawyers on Slashdot tend to get drowned out by the dozens of people who don't understand the law nearly as well as they think they do.

One last comment: I'm rubber, you're glue, words bounce off me and stick to you. I know, a silly saying, but highly applicable in this case.

Re:SDINAL (4, Informative)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462880)

I know there are legal implications to certain decisions I might make, but...

But nothing. You're asking a legal question, you need to go to a legal expert. Slashdotters are not legal experts, they just think they are, and their advice is worse than useless.

As a supposed legal expert (yes, IAAL), I can advise that if it cannot be positively determined that copyright is not in force (and after only 18 years it seems impossible that it would not be) then yes, without permission you could be sued, very likely successfully-- but then, the copyright holder may not wish to sue, and as another post noted, even be supportive. Be sure to get that expression of support in writing. (And be sure the author and copyright holder are one and the same.)

How does one find the copyright owner? (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463164)

How does one find the copyright owner?

For example, who owns copyright in the video game Zero Wing?

Re:How does one find the copyright owner? (3, Informative)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463822)

Re:How does one find the copyright owner? (2, Insightful)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464024)

Is the registry kept up to date ? E.g. if a company gets bought by another and that company then decides to sell part of its IP, etc. A lot of old game companies from back in the 80's went through that dance several times.

Re:SDINAL (2, Informative)

dogsolitude_uk (1403267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463000)

Seeking bona fide legal advice would definitely be worthwhile, but airing the idea in the community and talking to others who have remade games is also a sound policy, since other advice and issues may be raised. I think this is a case of 'and' rather than 'exclusive or'!

Re:SDINAL (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31463032)

Slashdotters ... advice is worse than useless

Including this:

you need to go to a legal expert

Re:SDINAL (5, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463082)

But nothing. You're asking a legal question, you need to go to a legal expert. Slashdotters are not legal experts, they just think they are, and their advice is worse than useless.

Goes to show what you know! We think we're experts at EVERYTHING, not just law. And we're pedantic and petty! We know it better than you do and your spelling sux and your mother ate worms! And we're abusive. I'll demonstrate: Get it right, loser!

(Anyone who mods this as anything other than humour is a complete moron).

Re:SDINAL (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463386)

Also, anyone who mods it funny.

Re:SDINAL (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464216)

(Anyone who mods this as anything other than humour is a complete moron).

First you give us that delicious bit of irony, then you go and spoil it!

Re:SDINAL (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463148)

Legal experts usually have little knowledge with such things, however. They very often unnecessarily advise caution to hide their lack of expertise.

Get permission! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462448)

Whether or not you think the copyright "no longer matters" is irrelevant. If you do not get legal permission it is breaking the law pure and simple.

See the case of "Alien Abuse", an iPhone port of Abuse by defunct Crack.com. The authors released the code and graphics as public domain, but the whole game (including SFX) was redistributed without legal permission. This resulted in a nasty dispute with former Crack.com founder Dave T. Taylor, and the game being removed from the iPhone app store.

The lesson I would take from the above is that even if the company responsible for producing the company may no longer exist, it's founders certainly do and may not take kindly to unauthorised redistribution of their IP.

Re:Get permission! (1)

LocalH (28506) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462838)

The authors released the code and graphics as public domain, but the whole game (including SFX) was redistributed without legal permission. This resulted in a nasty dispute with former Crack.com founder Dave T. Taylor, and the game being removed from the iPhone app store.

That sounds a bit ambiguous. Do you mean the original game author released it as PD, or the remake authors? If the former, then the original author can go jump off a cliff. If the latter, then that makes a whole lot more sense.

Re:Get permission! (1)

werewolf1031 (869837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463474)

That sounds a bit ambiguous. Do you mean the original game author released it as PD, or the remake authors? If the former, then the original author can go jump off a cliff. If the latter, then that makes a whole lot more sense.

You emphasized the wrong bits, and therefore seem to have missed the point. Here, allow me...

The authors released the code and graphics as public domain, but the whole game (including SFX) was redistributed without legal permission.

Now do you understand why there was a problem?

Re:Get permission! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462936)

Sounds like a cool place, a wretched hive of scum and villainy

iPhone port of abuse

I would like to come visit, after checking out the Sea of Tranquility

Re:Get permission! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31463044)

If you do not get legal permission it is breaking the law pure and simple.

Actually, it's a bit worse than that. It's exposing him to liability.

Paying damages and fines are going to be a bitch if the "abandoning" rights holder comes after you in civil court. Even if your project is "free" (as in beer), a rights holder could claim damages simply by claiming that he intended to launch a commercial project.

Tread carefully.

Ask the ScummVM guys (3, Interesting)

meist3r (1061628) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462472)

They re-released several abandonware adventure games after corresponding with the original programmers. They even got source code and permission to use all the assets for freeware release. I agree with most other posts here that you should try contacting the original developers first (might take some digging, try to get a hold of the original production manager). If they refuse you can still salvage most content and rename the characters to stay out of trouble. Most other projects don't make that effort of asking and are then shot down right at the finish line (look at basically every fan remake out there). Maybe you can also ask the people that did Zak McKracken 2 (zak2.org) they probably got some advice on how to handle someone else's IP w/o getting screwed.

Just release the code. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462478)

It's open source. Presumably, you are not doing it for a profit.

Release whatever code you want. No human should ever be punished for creating a work of art. I don't know what the laws are. But, I will fight (with you) to the death to allow my fellow humans to create art.

There is a difference between creating art and creating Intellectual Property. Art is used for free by experiencing it.. viewing it, listening to it. Sure people artificially can profit from art. Which is why we create artificial trade restrictions to protect people's ability to profit from art. But, if your creation is so easily usurped by something, because it's obvious, then maybe your creation doesn't deserve the special artificial protections afforded by society.

Re:Just release the code. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462942)

When people clone an existing game they rarely create art, they usually just take what they can and clone the rest. That's not really a creative endeavor.

My Advice (2, Interesting)

AndrewFenn (1449703) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462504)

Should I approach the copyright holder and purchase a license, or attempt to buy the rights outright and transfer them to the open source project/myself/the original creator?

If the game company has gone bankrupt it might be a situation where the company was liquidated and its assets sold. If that is that case then the company no longer owns the copyright.

In any case I doubt it is worth purchasing the copyright. You state that you will be remaking this game from scratch which means purchasing someone else's copyright when you aren't going to use it will be a waste of money. Also you have to take into account that purchasing copyright is very expensive, requires a lawyer and at the end of it you can't really be guaranteed that you own it.

If you wish to use the original name then you should check and make sure any registered trademark has already expired. If it has then you should have no issue naming your game with the same name or something similar.

When making your own version of the game you should make sure that the names of things in the game, artwork, etc are all of your own work. This means they should be different from the original game. Copying how the original game plays shouldn't be an issue however.

If you feel that is not an option and that you need the original names of characters etc in your remake then you could have an expansion pack hosted someone else away from the project which adds the original content. That way if you do get in legal trouble you can pull the offending content without causing any problems where your project is hosted.

imo (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462516)

imo instead of bionic commando it should be bionic fartmando. instead of having a bionic arm you eat cans of super beans and fart to kill enemies. you also fart to jump, so the amount of beans you eat means that your jumps are limited. so to clear levels in the best way you have to conserve your farts and figure out how to do the least jumping. anyway bionic fartmando. code it up and i'll buy it. also i'll buy a second copy for my son marticock.

WSL3

Re:imo (4, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463622)

Never before have alcohol and an Internet connection come together to make something this funny.

Re:imo (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464142)

But Bionic Commando can't jump!

Re:imo (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464272)

Bionic Fartmando doesn't have arms.

Give it a try (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462544)

The people you want to talk to, by the way, are the publishers, not the developers. In some rare cases the developers own the copyright, but in 99.9% of cases games are works for hire and the publisher owns the copyright.

Now, as to what they'll do? Well who knows? There have been varied results. You may well find them very amenable to the idea and they may want little or no money. You may find they flat out say "No," or don't even respond. However you don't know until you try.

A recent example of a success in that regard is Stardock just got the license to distribute and update Total Annihilation. The CEO is a big fan of it and talked to Atari and got the rights to sell it on Impulse, as well as the rights to update it with new features. So this sort of thing can happen.

However there have been failures too. In one case, Xcom I think, it turned out the original source code had been lost so the publisher couldn't license it out, even if they wanted to since they didn't have it.

You don't know until you try what will happen. However, do be prepared that they may blow you off. One thing that may improve your chances is if you have a solid plan for what you intend to do with it. Show them a business plan, more or less, that shows you have seriously thought out how you'd improve it and so on. They may be more likley to deal with someone they believe will make something rather than someone they think might just be playing around.

Make use of the Original (4, Insightful)

Mendy (468439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462606)

How about coding yours so that it loads resources it needs from a copy of the original game which you leave it up to the end-user to acquire? This is how Quake reimplementations work and ID don't seem to have complained about it.

Re:Make use of the Original (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462982)

Quake has the original source code opensourced, it's the artwork that they have not released. A better example would be OpenTTD.

Re:Make use of the Original (2, Informative)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463104)

As someone pointed out, Quake opensourced the engine, not the content. More importantly, if the new game relied on the old game to load textures, etc., then you would have to be distributing the OLD game. This would likely violate the copyright, and open you up for even more lawsuits. Direct distribution of copyright content is worse than making your own version of it (which is often perfectly legal).

Re:Make use of the Original (1)

Mendy (468439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463152)

As someone pointed out, Quake opensourced the engine, not the content.

Indeed - which is why nQuake and others want you to provide pak1.pak from the full game to get textures and other content.

Re:Make use of the Original (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463188)

And if you haven't bought the game, it is considered piracy. If you are sending it with your new game, it is considered copyright infringement. Not a good idea for a method of distributing your new game.

Re:Make use of the Original (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31464678)

And if you haven't bought the game, it is considered piracy. If you are sending it with your new game, it is considered copyright infringement. Not a good idea for a method of distributing your new game.

You don't get it. The people who make games based on the Quake engine don't distribute the pak files with their release. Getting the pak file is left entirely up to the user, if they want to pirate it, buy it or whatever. The person distributing the game is not responsible for the choice of the end user, and is not liable.

Not so fast (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462612)

Remember, just because they haven't "done anything" with their copyright over the last 30 years, that doesn't mean they don't still have copyright. Or more importantly, that SOMEONE could still have the copyright, and that they might not be very nice.

Writing any code on the basis of "they probably won't care" isn't a great idea, and other projects have been burned by that in the past.

As said elsewhere in the comments, contact the owner or creator first. If it really is abandonware then he probable won't mind (might even be flattered). And if he is sue-happy (or if the rights have passed to someone else other than him) it's better to find out now rather than later.

Re:Not so fast (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463176)

Or more importantly, that SOMEONE could still have the copyright, and that they might not be very nice.

Then how does one go about locating this SOMEONE if the game's original publisher is defunct?

Oh Look (0, Redundant)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462634)

It's this thread again. Did something change since last time this was discussed?

Re:Oh Look (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462882)

Nope.

Re:Oh Look (1)

Kasar (838340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463026)

Obama stated today that he would be pushing for stronger enforcement of current copyrights.
In other words, no copyright reforms are coming anytime soon.

What do you mean my "recreate"? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462650)

The main trouble you might run into and which many other projects have run into are naming conflicts. Publishers like to protect their trademarks, so any name that is a little to close to the original will give you a cease&desist, but those are mostly harmless, as you just need to change your project name then.

Taking over gameplay ideas and concepts is however a non-issue, lots of games do that, even commercial ones.

If you want to create a pixel-perfect replica using original artwork and stuff you shouldn't have much trouble either, as long as you do not include the graphics directly. Many hobby projects like to "steal" graphics from commercial projects and while most of them don't get into trouble it will put you in legal limbo, as what you are doing is illegal. This will also have practical implications such as not getting included in Linux Distributions and such.

Long story short, a recreation based on ideas of the original game won't get you normally into trouble. A recreation based on original graphics, title, names and other copyrightable details however might.

And in the end you have of course to get an idea why you want to recreate it. If its for preservation purposes, adopting to new hardware, etc., it might be best to try to contact the original author and ask for source. There have been quite a few cases where older games have released source code, figuring out however who the current copyright holder is can be troublesome.

I've done this before... (4, Insightful)

dudeX (78272) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462652)

First thing I did was emailed a few of the principal owners of the game, and told them about my intent, and asked about who holds the copyright and trademarks. I got the go ahead, with the caveat that another company owned the trademark to this particular game.

I also searched the web to look at other projects based on remakes. It seems that the best way to handle remakes of abandownare games is to not to bother the company that made it (especially if they're big like EA or Activision). The unwritten rule seems to be if you don't bother them, they won't bother you. Otherwise, they'll just say no and might put the kibosh on the project.

This should also be obvious, but don't sell the game. Just don't.

I never finished the game I was remaking since writing the tools to make it got laboriously time consuming.

Start a company - limit your personal liability (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462682)

If you're worried about getting sued, start a for profit business and create your first piece of intellectual property. If you do everything correctly, the worst that could happen would be the assets of the company being seized. So, you lose your investment in the form of whatever time and money you put into the venture, but you don't get your personal bank account frozen, in the event of a judgment.

You could always go the non-profit route, but ironically, non-profits typically cost more to start up and for tax preperation because they are a specialty, so lawyers and accountants specializing in that area charge more for services rendered.
Consult your attorney

Re:Start a company - limit your personal liability (2, Funny)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31462760)

incorporate the company, float it on the stock exchange with a market cap of $1. sell i to some bum on the street for $1.5 and have him name you CIO,CFO and CEO. then when it all goes wrong your just an employee doing as you were told.

Re:Start a company - limit your personal liability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31462980)

you're

Re:Start a company - limit your personal liability (2, Informative)

gdshaw (1015745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463448)

IANAL, but this is a subject I've looked into. Limited liability can help greatly when you have acted in good faith, but it is unlikely to shield you if you have shown malice or willful blindness. This is especially true for very small companies that are effectively a vehicle for the acts of one person.

Don't mean to troll but to help you (1)

trifish (826353) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463168)

Rather than sending this to "Ask Slashdot", you ought to send it to "Ask a Lawyer" (prepare to pay).

You're not coding, you're prevaricating (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463202)

Stop pissing around, slap a "z" on the end of the name, flip a few pixels around and ship the mofo.

Due dilligence (1)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463554)

At least try to contact people you think might own the copyright and the original authors. Save a copy of anything you send and any response. If you're sued, then you can prove you don't have any malicious intent and you actually tried to do right.

Is it really worth it? (1)

EngivalX (1766600) | more than 4 years ago | (#31463718)

Take the Kings Quest "The Silver Lining" as an example. They got permission from Vivendi Universal, only to have permission revoked years later [kotaku.com] .

YOU take the risk (1)

ewilts (121990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464354)

To create an "open source game", you're giving your customers a license but you would be given them a license for something you KNOW you don't own. You're setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Not only can the original copyright and/or patent holders come after you, but every single one of YOUR licensees could come after you for damages as well. Whether or not you charge a fee has absolutely no bearing on the matter. The real question you need to ask is not whether you'd be in the right or wrong but whether or not you can afford the legal bills if somebody does go after you. You, and you alone, need to decide if you are willing to take that risk. Is the game THAT important that you'd be willing to risk thousands or tens of thousands of your own money on legal fees?

try a nonprofit art law organization (1)

ffflala (793437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31464724)

Video game design is an art. So look for a nonprofit lawyers for the arts organization in your state.

They will almost certainly be able to give you more informed legal advice than you will find on /., and some of them might be able to set you up with a pro bono attorney. Here's a list (from NY's Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts) of state arts law organizations:

http://www.vlany.org/resources/vladirectory.php [vlany.org]

(Btw, based on the handful of such organizations I've contacted, it seems that calling is often necessary to get through. I think their email tends to gets buried.)

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