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Can an Operating System / Desktop Environment (e.g. for Linux systems) include a fictional map? E.g. can a DE for Linux systems include the map of Azeroth (from Warcraft) and all of its locations on the timezone selection screen?

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    Yes, if they have a license to do so.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:09
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    BTW, Microsoft removed its real-world map time zone selector from Windows because of complaints from governments of countries with border disputes (notably India/Pakistan). Nothing to do with copyright, though.
    – dan04
    Dec 14, 2022 at 23:53

1 Answer 1

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Can a system include such information? it is surely technically possible. Would it be a violation of copyright? That depends.

First of all, any such information can be included if the copyright holder has granted permission, probably in the form of a license. But in that case this question would probably not have been asked. I therefore assume that no permission has been granted. (It doesn't matter if a request was made and the answer was "no", a request was made but ignored, or no request was ever made. No permission is still no permission.)

The names of fictional locations are nor protected by copyright. Including, say, "Rivendell" or "Hobbiton" in the selection list for a timezone setting would not infringe the copyrights held by the Tolkien estate. But a map is a different thing. If the OS includes and can display a map of a fictional region, one that is copied from or based on a map published with the fiction, or by some third party, then that would almost surely be copyright infringement, and the copyright holder could choose to sue for infringement. S/he might choose not to sue, but that is a risky gamble to take. If this is in the US, statutory damages could be awarded, and could intheory go as high as $150,000, although they are not likely to be as high as that, that is just the maximum legal limit (per work infringed, not per copy). The standard is whatever amount the court thinks "just", up to the maximum. (If proof of willful infringement is not made, the upper limit is $30,000, still a sizable sum.)

If the OS designer created the map independently, using names from the fiction, but not otherwise basing it on the fiction, and in particular not imitating any map created by anyone else, then it may well not be infringement, but it would still be wise to consult a copyright lawyer.

The question would be more helpful if it made clear just what would be hypothetically included in the OS, and to what extent it would be based on someone else's work.

There is also the question of why someone would want to include fictional places, but that really doesn't change the legal issue.

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