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At my business, some people are deliberating about adding public government buildings to a level in our game. There are concerns about whether this is legal. I thought for sure I played games in the past which depict the White House, Capitol Hill, and other places in DC, but I can't recall them so I wasn't able to allay my colleagues' concerns.

They wanted to add buildings such as the White House, the Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, etc. Does depicting these buildings require some sort of caveat or legal disclaimer? We're not sure if, e.g., adding the White House might denote endorsement from the president. Or if adding the Supreme Court Building would suggest endorsement of the SCOTUS, etc.

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    Though if you have a business and are doing it professionally, get your advice from a professional, not random folks on the internet. Nov 9, 2020 at 21:59
  • @Studoku Thanks, I posted a separate question here: law.stackexchange.com/questions/57924/… Nov 9, 2020 at 22:41
  • Both questions can be answered in one sentence: "The First Amendment allows allow all of this."
    – bdb484
    Nov 10, 2020 at 2:23
  • I think the prominent example of such a game is "Duke it out in D.C.", which depicts the three buildings you mention among others. Nov 17, 2020 at 14:14

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The design of federal government buildings in the United States is in the public domain. It is not a copyright violation to depict them in a video game. This is not necessarily true of all privately owned buildings and structures.

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    I would say that the likeness of non-public buildings might also not fall under copyright. He wouldn't be building a stadium to pull money away from Verizon Center (biggest non-government landmark in DC I could recall off the top of my head) but is in fact making a digital likeness for commentary purposes. So long as signage is tweaked (call it the Horizen Center, home of the Washington Warlocks (instead of Wizards or alternatively call them the Bazookas, making a clever dig at how the team used to be the Baltimore Bullets) this falls into fair use parody.
    – hszmv
    Nov 10, 2020 at 13:38
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    @hszmv I don't really disagree. But the issue is much more complicated for privately owned buildings where the general rule is that copyright or design patent protections apply and there are big and important exceptions, than it is for federal government buildings where a simple, blanket rule applies.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 10, 2020 at 20:22

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