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Since COVID-19 has senior centers shut down, I'm thinking of holding a virtual game night at these centers. I'd like to allow the seniors to play games like Risk or Monopoly against each other on laptops.

Board game manufacturers often don't have very good digital versions of their games, so I was thinking of using Tabletop Simulator to recreate the game virtually. However, a virtual version of the game made with copyrighted artwork downloaded from the internet isn't legal.

I know you can make a digital copy of a book or CD you own. If I owned a board game and used digital copies of the game's artwork I made to create a virtual version of the game, would this be legal? The virtual game would only be used for this project, and I wouldn't distribute the artwork to anyone else.

Thank you!

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  • Derivative Work.
    – Trish
    Oct 24 '20 at 10:03
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This a bit dubious. You write "I know you can make a digital copy of a book or CD you own." but that is true only under limited circumstances. Making such a copy for one's own personal use would likely be fair use (in the US). Selling copies would pretty clearly be copyright infringement. Giving away free copies to significant numbers of people would also be infringement. Temporarily lending copies ro a small number of people might be considered fair use or might not.

For the board game, you could allow others to play with the copy you own in person. But COVID makes that unsafe. Assuming the game art is under copyright protection (some older games might have protection expired) selling such images or making them widely available would clearly be infringement. Making them available only during the course of play to a limited group, with technical measures to prevent or discourage copying and no fee charged might pass as fair use, and the game company might well not want to pursue the matter in any case. If you create new art which can be used for the same game, it would be somewhat less likely to be considered infringing/ Even then selling access would probably be trademark infringement, and perhaps infringe the copyright on the rules of the game.

There would be legal risk in doing this sort of thing.

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  • Interesting. I'm planning on providing this service for free, but it seems like it still wouldn't be cut and dried. Oct 24 '20 at 15:34
  • Nitpick: game rules don't fall under copyright, only the specific wording does, so in the - very common - case that OP explains the rules in their own words rather than each participant studying a copy of the booklet, they should be fine. Oct 25 '20 at 15:20
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    @Ruther Rendommeleigh you are correct that the ideas of the rules are not protected by copyright, only the wording. But a close paraphrase may well constitute a derivative work, and be protected as such. Oct 25 '20 at 18:34

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