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I am using the unreal engine that supports c++ language. Now I don't know anything about copyright and I don't know how to know anything about it. I live in Egypt. I worked on a game for 8 months. The problem is that I used the Ben10 character and I do not know if this is legal or not. I am afraid that something bad will happen to me

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    They are copyrighted. Everything copyrightable is copyrighted by default. Unless you have a license to them or direct knowledge that they have been released to the public domain, it's illegal for you to use them in most circumstances.
    – LjL
    Mar 4 at 4:28
  • The problem is that I do not know if the character has copyright or not, and I do not know how to contact the stakeholders to release my game Mar 4 at 4:35
  • The question I've always wanted. Is the change in the story enough to keep me away from legal problems or not? To what extent should I change to avoid prosecution? Mar 4 at 22:50
  • I think you need more details. Did you just name a character in your game story "Ben10" or is there an existing character in another game called that, with lots of details to him, and did you copy all of those details as well (e.g. his appearance, his backstory, etc.)? If the main problem is just with the name 'Ben10' is it possible to modify your story and choose a different name to avoid the impression that you're copying?
    – Brandin
    Mar 18 at 8:37
  • Look, the game took me more than 8 months to complete. I say this because it is not easy to reprogram the game and make changes to it, but the details are that I named the game Ben 10 and the monsters that appear in the watch also took them in the game either (the story is different and the rest of the characters are different, even the graphics and the open world different) Mar 19 at 12:08

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If I lock you in a room without access to anything and tell you "Write a novel" and you write a novel with characters, you have copyright in the work. But it's not absolute:

If you use your own characters, you own all the copyright in the work, but not in the idea, as ideas are not copyrightable, see Feist v Rural.

If you use someone else's characters extensively (as in more than a short hommage/cameo), you very likely make a derivate. You own a copyright in your part, as in the expression of the story or pictures you created, but you do not gain property interest in the existing characters' expression. Since the copyright to the characters lies with the owner of their IP, you need their OK to release (and also to even make) your work - as with the owner of a copyright is the sole right to decide on distribution and creation of derivates under 17 USC § 106 (2).

Also remember that making an unlicensed derivate work risks having nothing you can sue for in case the original copyright owner lifts your ideas and scenes-a-faire parts and adapts them for their own derivate, see Anderson v Stallone

The strange case of fanfiction chains...

Now, there is a strange situation when a work is based on a work which is based on a work... Then, publishers and editors start with red ink and the result is, that what people know as Twilight now has nothing to do with the fanfiction it started as (It wasn't Vampires in the original draft), and 50 Shades of Grey ended up striking any and all supernatural from it, despite it having been a Twilight fanfiction originally. By making own characters and own expression of the world, there could be no copyright infringement.

US law vs Egypt law?

Both Egypt and the US have signed the Berne convention, meaning that copyright is very very similar in the broad strokes that the right to allow or disallow derivates is with the copyright holder.

Also, since Ben10's copyright owners are to the best of my knowledge in the US (Cartoon Network Studios & Men of Action Studios), they will sue in a US federal court.

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  • @DavidSiegel reworded. Better?
    – Trish
    Mar 4 at 16:02
  • The question I've always wanted. Is the change in the story enough to keep me away from legal problems or not? To what extent should I change to avoid prosecution? Mar 4 at 22:50
  • @mohamedgawdat That is a question for a lawyer you pay for. The standard is however somewhat... Duck: If it sounds, looks, and moves like a duck, for the law, it is a duck. But if it sounds like a gorilla, looks like an orang Outan and moves like a duck, it's not a duck.
    – Trish
    Mar 4 at 23:23
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Using Ben10 characters without permission from the owners is not legal

Unless the characters you are using are either entirely of your own creation or public domain, you will fall foul of copyright law. Usually what happens is your game will be hit with a DMCA takedown claim (most websites follow US law no matter where you yourself are based) and you will be unable to distribute your game. If you try to fight your DMCA takedown notice, the owners have the opportunity to come after you using your country's own laws.

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    This is significantly overstated, as mentioned in my comment on the answer by Trish. If the character is mostly stock or generic, use of it will not be infringement. If the use is brief, a mere literary reference, it will not be infringement. Use as a major part of the plot of a distinctive character from another's work may well make the new work derivative, and thus infringing if permission was not obtained. These distinctions are determined case-by-case if a suit is brought. Mar 4 at 15:03
  • The question I've always wanted. Is the change in the story enough to keep me away from legal problems or not? To what extent should I change to avoid prosecution? Mar 4 at 22:50
  • @DavidSiegel but stating that you are using a character from Ben10 specifically implies you're using a named character, which would fly in the face of your 'but generic' comment.
    – 520
    Mar 6 at 8:22
  • @mohamedgawdat if your character is literally and explicitly 'X character from Ben10', you need permission. If your character is like 'X character from Ben10', you're good to go so long as the difference (eg: name) is made somewhat explicit. The same is true of story beats; you can't place your story in X arc of Y show but you can give your own story a near-identical arc.
    – 520
    Mar 6 at 8:24
  • @520 That is not correct. Use o a specifically named character is permitted if A) the character, while named, is not suffici8ently distinctive, or B) the character is used in a comparatively minor way. Whether a character is referred to by name is not determinative, although it is a relevant factor.. "Generic" as I used it above need not mean "Unnamed". Mar 6 at 14:53

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