I have been looking up the laws of copyright for games. A lot of the stuff you find is pretty vague so it can be extremely difficult to have a good understanding of what you can/can't do. There are a range of different styles things can be done in, so how would it be determined if something is "too similar" and therefore infringes copyright.

This came into thought while looking at "Zelda - A link to the past". The game itself is very basic in design, 2D low resolution textures etc. If this were to be remade in 3D which would look completely different to the original style, could it still be considered too close? Does this account for storyline too, can you copy that?

I read this in another post:

Copyright will protect only the computer program in the form written by a programmer i.e. its source code. Neither the functionality of a computer program, nor the programming language or the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that program, and thus, those are not protected by copyright

So is storyline considered functionality and therefore exempt? It's too vague and is quite intimidating, any information on this subject would be interesting.

Keep in mind, I am not looking for advice but rather a broader understanding of such a vague concept.

2 Answers 2


Remaking a game is a derivative work, and only the copyright or license holder may do so. It does not matter how similar the new and old game are. It is the originality of the work that must be considered.

Similarly to the protection of specific expression but the absence of protection for general expression, a storyline can be copied, while the story itself cannot.

For example

  • I can write a book featuring an ancient order of warrior-monks who fight their evil counterparts using a magic forcefield and swords made of light, but I could not take a novelisation of Star Wars and just edit a few names or words to make it my own.

  • I can write my own software and draw my own artwork to create a game in which a soldier driven mad by experimentation with the essence of nature tries to crash the essence of evil into the planet, and make the protagonist a blond male who uses a giant modular sword, and use the poignant death of a woman in a pink dress to build tension, but I could not decompile Final Fantasy VII nor could I take their specific characters and use them in my game.


Copyright applies to:

  • The source code
  • The graphics
  • The spoken or written text
  • The sounds
  • The music

Trademark (possibly) applies to:

  • the character's names
  • place names
  • the character's likenesses

So long as you do not copy or derive your work from any of these things you're good.

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