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If I were to create a video game with mechanics and a story that are divorced from D&D, but still used a name like "Eldritch Blast" for an attack move, is this still infringing on WoTC's IP? Furthermore, how different does a creature have to be in order to be considered a unique entity? Could I call a creature in this hypothetical game a "beholder", give it a unique illustration inspired by the source material, and still be infringing?

Basically, are these concepts broad enough to be used in other works, or are they untouchable and need to be renamed for use by other creators?

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    Using a name is never copyright infringement; did you really mean to ask if using a name (and nothing else) is copyright infringement, or are you asking about copying several aspects of a D&D spell/creature? Or did you mean to ask about trademark instead of copyright? Nov 14, 2019 at 0:45
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1 Answer 1

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Generally, unique names (not Bill or Sam) that would obviously refer to one character would be considered infringement. The same goes for the name of the move.

There isn't one definition of what is too much, that would cover all ideas that could come from another game, but you should not just use the same characters or names commercially. You can make scenarios involving copyrighted characters at home for yourself, but you can not use them commercially.

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  • "You can make scenarios involving copyrighted characters at home for yourself" - can you provide legal citations for that? I thought that legally you couldn't - it's just that copyright holders are unlikely to come after you if you do. Nov 14, 2019 at 11:39
  • Where in copyright law does it say that "names other than common names like Bill or Sam" have copyright protection?? Creative elements are copyrighted. For example the character of Harry Potter has copyright protection, not the name itself.
    – Brandin
    Nov 14, 2019 at 17:38
  • Terrible answer.
    – bdb484
    Nov 14, 2019 at 18:00
  • @Brandin, if you read the answer I told you those names don't. I said a unique name can.
    – Putvi
    Nov 14, 2019 at 18:09
  • @MartinBonnersupportsMonica: Likely a jurisdictional matter. The Berne three-step test specifically leaves such non-commercial use to the individual legislator.
    – MSalters
    Nov 14, 2019 at 19:08

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