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I am developing a game and ended up creating an effect which triggers on enemy death. An enemy dissolves and spreads particles around. The end effect reminded me a bit of the movie The Avengers and Thanos disintegration effect. The VFX doesn't really look just like in the movie, has a different color, and is much more simplified.

Can I get sued in this case by Marvel (or someone else related) for using this effect in my game? If not, what if I were using the exact same effect or very much similar to that in the movie (to be sure I am 100% safe with my current setup)?

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This would be fine for two reasons.

First, this is not what copyright is for. It's not that this exists, so nothing like it can- it's that someone worked on this, and that work shouldn't be used by someone else without their consent. Your work is not derivative of the effect from the film.

Second, Marvel doesn't have a copyright or trademark or someone turning into particles. I don't think such a thing can be and even if it was, they're certainly not the ones who created it. For example, Undertale used it 3 years before and that was a reference to many classic 8-bit games.

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  • and then there's StarTrek "beaming" particle effect... – Trish Nov 5 '20 at 0:44
  • I think this is correct insofar as it argues that "disintegration" is not copyrightable, but I strongly suspect that by copying the Snap effect closely enough -- "using the exact same effect," as the OP puts it -- could trigger a copyright violation. It's an animation no different from Steamboat Willie. – bdb484 Nov 5 '20 at 3:20
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You cannot be sued for producing a similar result in a game compared to another game. Many games have similar results, with the winner being the person who has accumulated the largest number of "points" or other "currency" after a certain number of rounds. Other games have the winner as being the one who has "crushed" the other players. An enemy death that creates an effect is not copyright protected.

You can be sued for having a similar "mechanic," to another game. An example of a "mechanic" is the code that is used to produce a result. It is the "mechanic" or code and not the outcome that is "suable."

You are more likely to lose a lawsuit where the game "result" or "effect" was different, but somehow your code was similar to someone else's, than one where your code was different and you produced the identical end result. Put another way, it is the other party's "work product" or code that is protected, and not the idea or result.

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