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I would like to make an Android app which replicates a puzzle board game played as a small side feature within a popular action video game.

  • Am I allowed to create such an Android game with the same rules as the original game and publish it to the Google Play Store?
  • If so, am I allowed to use the same texture graphics from the original game?
  • I plan on making this app free to download anyway. However I'm curious, is it necessary to make it free to avoid copyright infringements? But what if the app has in-game ads which generate income?
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  • Copyright law varies between nations. Please add a jurisdiction tag. As to your last question, whether the game is free or paid usually doesn't make any difference as far as whether you are infringing the copyright. Jun 21 '16 at 13:28
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    Answerers: assume no licence, and assume no fair use/dealing. That is the only way this question is meaningful.
    – user3851
    Jun 21 '16 at 14:56
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I would advise seeking an attorney to relay the specifics of your case but here is my personal semi-informed opinion on this. (Assuming we're talking about federal US law).

  1. Copyright covers expression not ideas, therefore so long as you don't literally copy and paste the rules from the book you are free to make similar rules based on the same principles as the original game (MythBusting: Game Design and Copyright, Trademarks, and Patents (US Law)) This is a bit old but it contains some good info on copyright.

  2. I'm honestly not sure on this one, but this Reddit answer (see bullet 2) seems to address it pretty well. ELI5: How is it legal for mobile games to almost completely copy other games?.

  3. Whether you make a profit or not has 0 bearing on whether what you do is copyright infringment, the only thing it would affect is the amount of damages which could be assessed against you. See 17 U.S. Code § 504 - Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits section b) which states that victim of infringement entitled to statutory damages + profits of infringer.

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  • Thanks for your input! This begs the question: How much do I have to change the rules and graphics until it can no longer be claimed that the app infringes? Omit a rule or two? Change the color/hue of the textures? What about the name? If the original name is "DantA's Puzzle", is it enough to call it "Not DantA's Puzzle" or "Puzzle O'DantA" so that users can still recognize the intention of the game in app searches?
    – Qululu
    Jun 22 '16 at 7:59
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    Wrong question. You mustn't change anything because that would only create a derived work. Creating derived works is against copyright law, and using derived works is copyright infringement. You need to create your own, unrelated artwork. It's called copy right. Don't copy anything.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 22 '16 at 8:02
  • @Qululu The purpose of trademarks is to prevent people from thinking that your product might be made by or affiliated with the trademark holder. So you should avoid the DantA term completely (if that's the trademark).
    – Philipp
    Sep 20 '16 at 14:11
  • @Dant.A point 2 is pretty clear: Ripping artwork is a copyright violation.
    – Philipp
    Sep 20 '16 at 14:13
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Copyright does not protect rules. A new game can use the same rules. However, copyright does protect the exact words used to express the rules. So the rules must be rewritten to have the same (or a similar) meaning, but using different words. Or the rules may be changed in whatever way you choose. Since rules are not protected by copyright, changing them does not crease a derivative work.

Graphics and images may not be copied without permission. The designer of a new game will, to to create or obtain new images. (Exception: images already in the public domain, like many NASA images.)

The price charged, if any, does not affect whether something is a copyright infringement or not. If the new game is not an infringement when free, it is still not an infringement if you charge for it.

The name of the old game is probably a trademark. You may not use it in such a way as to suggest that the new game is from the same source, or is approved or endorsed by the makers of the old game. The old name may be used in a comparison to the old one, but only if it is very clear that they are different and from different sources.

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