First and foremost, I've already done some research regarding my question - web pages including, but not limited to the following ones, weren't able to answer my question to it's full extent:

According to various sources, chess games (the moves themselves) aren't protected by copyright of any kind. The consens in those articles is that the infringement starts with either advertising a blog, book, etc. (doesn't matter whether it's paid/free) with a player, i.e. "100 best games of Magnus Carlsen". Another opinion which has been shared frequently is that chess notations are eligible for copyright. That out of the way, let's dive right into the question itself:

Suppose someone wants to share a paid blog post including special games of different kinds of players. For each of those games he lists a snippet of the important moves (which is completely legal) and includes the name of both parties, i.e. the white player is "Magnus Carlsen", black player is "Anish Giri". Moreover, the event has been played in 2015 at the World Championship (details are fictional).

Is such a publication copyrighted? The games are taken by any database, e.g. https://www.chess.com/, https://database.chessbase.com/, https://www.chessgames.com/, etc. If it is, why do these sites have millions of games (they surely haven't requested permission by each player)?

To be more precise, what parts of the chess game are copyrighted? Am I allowed to share a selection of different games, including details like names, date, place and so forth - all public knowledge?

  • As mentioned in the tags, I'm particularly interested in details about the jurisdiction of Germany and the United States. If anything is unclear, please let me know via the comment section - I'd be happy to elaborate more in-depth and provide an example of such a chess game (from a free database). Jan 10, 2021 at 17:47
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  • @SJuan76 No, it doesn't to a full extent - as I mentioned. I'm especially referring to which parts of a chess annotation are copyrighted in the jurisdiction of Germany and/or the United States. The article you linked deals with some details, including date, place and names of the players, but what further is allowed to be taken from a chess database annotation? Jan 10, 2021 at 17:56
  • And the moves played in that game...
    – SJuan76
    Jan 10, 2021 at 17:59
  • @SJuan76 There are many more details to annotations than that. Anyhow, how about publishing a paid blog, book, etc. about "The 100 best game of [Player x]", does that infringe copyright? Jan 10, 2021 at 18:44

3 Answers 3


This answer reflects US law; I don't know German law.

To be more precise, what parts of the chess game are copyrighted?

The parts which are not copyrighted are the facts of the individual games. These include the moves, the players involved, the venue, the clock times, draw offers, etc. Basically, anything found on the scoresheet.

The parts which are copyrighted are the parts the author actually, well, authored. Commentary and analysis, for example. A discussion of the "important" moves of the game would certainly qualify.

Am I allowed to share a selection of different games, including details like names, date, place and so forth - all public knowledge?

Single games, yes. But you can't take Fischer's "My 60 Memorable Games" and publish a collection of just those 60 games, even if you leave out his commentary - the creativity that went into selecting which games were included qualifies for copyright as well. (Note that a simple collection of all of a player's games in the order in which they were played would not qualify for copyright, as that's not creative enough.)

  • Can I select my own favorite games and publish them with such a title? Wouldn’t I violate any laws related to that? Jan 12, 2021 at 19:46
  • @J.M.Arnold You can't trademark a book title, so publishing a book with the same title as another book isn't illegal per se, but that might be its own question.
    – D M
    Jan 12, 2021 at 20:46
  • No, but using the name of someone else - maybe even a picture seems illegal to me. Or else everybody could publish “Best Games from Bobby Fischer” with a picture of the man himself (even if it’s copyright free)? Jan 12, 2021 at 20:54
  • @J.M.Arnold See this answer: law.stackexchange.com/questions/28555/…
    – D M
    Jan 12, 2021 at 21:09
  • @D M seems like it isn’t possible - thanks. Jan 12, 2021 at 21:23

There is arguably nothing creative about a chess party. Every player picks the move that they believe is best, not one that looks good, or is funny etc., and that is repeated 60 or 80 times. Of course this is difficult to do, but like running 100 metres in 9.9 seconds, it is a great achievement, but not creative.

Problem chess would be a different matter, where the creator of the problem is completely free to produce an interesting and difficult chess position.

  • picking the move that is the best is the creative part. in fact the moves require extraordinary creativity and originality to gain an advantage at the highest level. the chess players together create the game, like a poet stringing together grammatically correct words into sentences
    – qwr
    Sep 18, 2022 at 2:20

I'd imagine it is capable of being copyrighted, but not necessarily. It depends on jurisdiction, and whether it has been expressly copyrighted or not. Be aware that in some jurisdictions, copyright can be implied meaning that something can be copyright even if it isn't expressly copyright.

  • Jurisdiction is the US and Germany, as tagged in the question.
    – D M
    Jan 11, 2021 at 2:30
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    In all countries that have signed the Berne Copyright Convention the is no legal effect to something being "expressly copyright" In all such countries every protectable work is automatically protected when it is created and set down. This is all but a very few countries on Earth. It includes the US and all parts of Europe. This makes the answer misleading at best. Jan 12, 2021 at 21:44

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