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My friend and I were working on a game called Learnloot.

My friend made art, writing, and other designs for the game, although at the time she didn't tell me where the designs originated from so I assumed they were for Learnloot specifically.

However, now, she wants them to be removed from Learnloot because they were her designs and not for Learnloot itself. However, I was never told this, and considering that they were given to me when we were designing Learnloot, I assumed they were for Learnloot, but she thinks I should've known to ask her instead of assuming.

She says that the similar case raised with a game that we both have played in the past known as Pokéfarm Q where the founder's wife created art for the game is not valid as PFQ is a company, not a non-profit (Learnloot is an educational soon-to-be-non-profit - but it's not legally incorporated yet, as it isn't ready to be released). Is this valid?

Note: This is occurring in the United States. We were working as a group and neither of us were being paid anything for it - it was just a project.

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Unless the artist specifically gave you permission to use the art with the game, you may not do so. It would be up to you to prove the grant and its terms, so if it was not in writing you would have a hard tiem proving it if it came to a court case.

It does not matter whether the use is for profit or not, the creator or copyright holder has a right to grant or withhold permission to use her original art. It it is questionable for what purpose you were given physical copies, you may not assume that this included permission to use the art.

You don't know what agreements others may have had about permission to use their art in a game, so looking to that kind of precedent is of little value.

The law is clear on this, the artist (creator, or author) has the rights until she transfers them, or until she cleanly grants permission (a license) to use the art. What you may have assumed she had in mind is of little value.

Unless you had a clear and preferably written agreement that the art was made part mof the project and you each had rights to it, or permission was granted in some other way. you may not assume that the art was begin contributed to the project.

If works (text, art, or any other kind of wok that may be protected by copyright) are in fact created jointly, the parties are co-authors and initial co-owners of the copyright. But that must involve actual joint effort on the work.

Se 17 USC 106 for the basic rights of copyright

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  • There was some amount of joint effort, actually. There were a total of 3 people in the team at the time the storyline and basic art were created, but my friend definitely contributed the most of the content.
    – user41486
    Oct 30, 2021 at 19:50
  • Let’s not forget that one will have to first prove one had intellectual property one wants to sue for. Per case law, since around 2018 or ‘19, one has to register their copyright content in the U.S. if I’m not mistaken.
    – kisspuska
    Oct 31, 2021 at 6:50
  • @kisspuska That requirement was imposed by the US Copyright act of 1976, see 17 USC 411 (a) which provides: "no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title" with certain limited exceptions i will not detail here. This was in no way new in 2018, I think the question then was if an application for registration was enough or a completed registration was required. Oct 31, 2021 at 16:12
  • @kisspuska Note that the requirement for registration does not apply to works from outside the US, even if the copyright holder is suing min a US court. Oct 31, 2021 at 16:15
  • Oh, interesting. I had a vague recollection that this was something fairly new and merely a matter of new construction of an older statute. Yes, only U.S.-originated work is subject to this rule.
    – kisspuska
    Nov 1, 2021 at 5:09

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