For a game development/software engineering course that I am designing (in the public schools), I would like the final course activity to involve creating a game as a whole class over a long period. The course being created is not a game design class, so I would like to simply recreate an existing game, writing our own code from scratch, as a course activity.

Clearly, both the design and the art assets would belong to someone else. Importantly, our version of the game would never be released. We would be doing this purely as an academic exercise within the class.

Assume that, given the chosen game and the nature of the reproduction, this would otherwise be copyright infringement.

Would this fall under the fair use exception when done within this educational setting?

  • @user133469 Thank you for that excellent edit. You articulated my question much better than I was able to.
    – Ben I.
    Sep 8, 2022 at 11:24
  • For what it's worth, I could only find two cases under the U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use Index that seem to be vaguely on point: Sega v. Accolade (1992) and Apple v. Correllium (2020) Neither one is a perfect match for your case (neither involves education, in particular) but both of them have to do with using copyrighted elements of software. Sep 8, 2022 at 12:46
  • Also: for me, teaching at the college/university level, the practical answer would be "ask the library staff, they have policies for this". But that might not be the case for you at the high school (?) level. Sep 8, 2022 at 12:48
  • @MichaelSeifert Indeed there is no guidance from any library here :)
    – Ben I.
    Sep 8, 2022 at 13:22

2 Answers 2


It depends

A game is a complex item made up from artwork, lore and functionality. Some functionality is pretty much "Standards" or "blocks" that have to be used to be understandable by the player. Some random examples from a lot of strategy games:

  • A red bar stands for the health of the unit
  • Each unit occupies one "area" and has specific movement rules
  • It takes X points of production or resources to make a new unit

Such basic principles and UI conventions are not copyrightable.

What is copyrightable is the specific expression: The code underlying the game, the look of the units, its lore background, how the whole game interacts when you play it and more can all be protectable elements.

As an exercise for you, OP: Look at Age of Wonders 3, Endless Legends and Civilisation 6 - All three use in many regards a very similar game logic (unit movement, production, world mapping, resources), but they are very much dissimilar. Then look at Age of Empires 1/2, Warcraft 2 and Starcraft. Even if two of them are from the same maker each, the three series follow pretty much identical logics on some level, but express them totally different - there are even differences between AoE 1 and 2 as well as WC2 to SC, despite both being from the same studio and one having re-used part of the code from the other!

Such differences are what is making the expression of the game.

  • 4
    That is how I understand copyright in general. My question is more about the fair use carve-out for education.
    – Ben I.
    Jul 9, 2022 at 15:22

It should, but it denpends on the game. Generally the fact you are not looking to make money off the game and are using it only to teach coding are good example. When I was learning code, I had to program basic games that are largely "solved" for all possible plays (that is, for every play, the computer can evaluate and make an optimal counter play... like Tic Tac Toe... or make a play that would be optimal for the current conditions... like Black Jack... though usually the computer will play the dealer, who is not playing to win and has less plays to make...) OR a zero player game (games where the human is merely observing the computer play the game. Conway's Game of Life or Computer v. Computer Black Jack).

More complicated games were screen watching resource games that were used to show threading (in one I did, moving passenger and cargo ships through a port with limited port staff to complete all jobs a ship needed before setting sail. Here the workers were finite so a dock worker who had to paint ships would cause multiple ships that needed to back up while the passenger ships might need special jobs that the cargo ships did not. While those ships waited for the painter to free up, the other jobs could be completed.

None of these infringe on copyright since the assets are likely to not come from a similar game and it's engine.

  • 4
    None of these examples infringe on copyright because there is no copyright to infringe upon in the first place. Tic Tac Toe, Blackjack, and the Game of Life are existing games that aren't copyrighted, and the port simulator, as far as I can tell, is a novel expression which also doesn't have a prior copyright. It seems the OP wants to recreate a game whose popular implementation is copyrighted. Not sure what you're getting at with the final sentence, taking assets from one game and reusing them in another without permission may be infringement, even if the new game is in no way similar. Aug 8, 2022 at 18:03
  • Any card game can have copyright implications in the art of the card images used by the program, which is copyright.
    – hszmv
    Aug 9, 2022 at 11:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .