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The TV show is Korean (Squid Game) but the app would be launched in the UK.

I wish to call my app Squid < Something >, perhaps Squid Racing or Squid Bingo etc. And I wish the app to follow the basic format of the show, where players are eliminated round by round until the "survivor(s)" are the winners.

I assume this is perfectly fine if I don't use imagery or artistic inspiration from the show?

How about if I do? For example, if a face resembling the creepy little girl's face from Game#1 is featured in various screens on the app? What if a generic looking little girl is used? I guess I'm asking broadly speaking how far can I go and which particular things would be illegal. Cheers

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  • "I guess I'm asking broadly speaking how far can I go and which particular things would be illegal." This almost defines the proper use of this site, and how not to ask for specific legal advice. This question should not be closed as a request for legal advice, it asks what the law does or does not permit in a particular context. Nov 30 '21 at 17:56
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I assume this is perfectly fine if I don't use imagery or artistic inspiration from the show?

You are correct. The idea of an elimination context is an old one, going back at least to the late Roman Republic. In can case ideas, methods and procedures are never protected by copyright.

[What] if a face resembling the creepy little girl's face from Game#1 is featured in various screens on the app?

That image is almost surely protected by copyright. Any use of it without permission from the copyright owner (whoever that might be, quite possibly the production company for the show) would be unlawful, specifically copyright infringement, unless an exception to copyright applies.

In the US that would be fair use, which is a highly fact-driven determination. But it this case it seems unlikely that fair use would apply if you are in the US. See Is this copyright infringement? Is it fair use? What if I don't make any money off it? for more on fair use

The exceptions to copyright in non-US law are generally narrower and more specific than fair use, and it is rather less likely that any such exception would apply. (see What is the practical difference between "fair use" and "fair dealing" in Copyright law? for more on this.) In short you may not lawfully use that image without permission from the copyright holder.

In addition, the person whose face is shown in the image may well have "personality rights" or "rights of publicity" separate from any copyright, depending on your jurisdiction (such rights are recognized differently in different places, and some jurisdictions do not recognize them at all.) She could possibly sue if her image was used without her permission.

If a game developer creates a more generic image, not directly based on any image from the show, or gets someone else to create such an image and buys or is given the copyright or a license to use the image, there should be no legal issue with regard to any image copyright.

Trademark issues

In addition to copyright issues, there could be trademark issues here.

If you use the actual name of the show "Squid Game", that might seem to be trading off the reputation of the show, and implying that your game is authorized or sponsored or endorsed by the show's creators. That might well be trademark infringement, unless you get permission from the trademark owner.

However, what is a protected trademark is specific to a country. What is protected in one country is often not protected in another. Only a relative few very popular products are protected in every country.

In addition "Squid Game" is a rather descriptive, generic name. In the US, and in other countries with similar laws, it would probably receive only limited protection. Still it is safer to use a different and unique name.

A different name, such as perhaps "Squid Battle" which does not invite confusion with the TV show or imply endorsement by the show's creators is less likely to result in a trademark suit.

Any images or logos used to identify the show could also cause trademark claims if copied or imitated.

Note that in the US one can claim protection for a trademark in actual use, even if it has never been registered. In some other countries only registered marks are legally protected.

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