Why The Days Of Copycat Video Games Might Soon Be Over

There are few things more heart-breaking in this world than a cloned video game. A game that takes something someone else has done and, with little effort, shamelessly copies it in the hopes of riding some coattails to a cash register.

This industry is full of them, across all genres, from first-person shooters to strategy games to, ahem, almost the entire catalogue of certain mobile phone game publishers.

The days of cloned video games may be drawing to an end, though, as a recent court ruling in New Jersey has laid down a precedent for courts to decide that, no, a game that's a lot like another game could actually be doing something wrong. Like, legally wrong.

Previously, developers and publishers of "clone" games have been able to argue that, so long as they were copying "non-expressive" or "functional" aspects of the original title, that they weren't infringing on anyone's copyright.

But in deciding the fate of a court case between the owners of Tetris and a Tetris clone, Mino, an important distinction was made. The court ruled that the "underlying idea" of Tetris could be "distinguished from the game's protectable expression".

While it's impossible to copyright the very basic premise of Tetris - falling pieces collide, and the player must clear them by combining lines - it was ruled that many other aspects of the game could be protected, such as the display of the pieces, the dimensions of the "game" on the screen, the colours of the blocks, etc.

All of which leads us to this glorious kicker, provided by Jack C. Schecter: "the court found that it was only necessary for Mino to mimic Tetris's expression because Xio sought to avoid the difficult task of developing its own take on a known idea."

Because a big part of law is precedent, now that this court has ruled Mino came too close to copying Tetris, it means the door is open for any other publisher and/or developer to take action against similar "clones".

Grand Theft Video: Judge Gives Gamemakers Hope for Combating Clones [Sunstein]


Comments

    On one hand, this is a great thing for video game makers. On the other hand, this could turn into the mess that is current technology patent system, where the big companies will sue the pants of everyone else and strangle the market

      Exactly. It's a fine line between sensible protection of intellectual property and... a farce.

    This is bullshit and I'm going to shoot the messenger.

    Fuck you luke

    Hear that sound?Its the sound of all Gamelofts games disappearing from the apps store.

    Am i the only one who thinks the Clone Wars animated series was the best thing to come out of Starwars? Like...Ever?

    Just me?

      Heck no, the series has plenty of fans - and personally I agree with you. Although I still enjoy the original trilogy just a tiny bit more, it's unquestionably the best thing to come out of the prequels at least.

    "Why The Days Of Copycat Video Games Might Soon Be Over"

    Haahahha. Keep dreaming. While we're not going to get outright copycats like Modern Combat, we're still going to get the stylistic wannabes after every watershed game.

    Except all you've pointed out is that they can't stylistically copy the game.

    The logic here would be that Tetris symbols are essentially a brand logo for tetris.

    As you yourself point out the underlying premise can't be patented. Which means CoD clones aplenty do long as they don't use anything that can be distinctively tied to CoD.

    Guns. Nope based on real life
    Soldier clOthing/appeance. Nope again real life.

    Kill cam/game modes. Nope technically the premise of the game.

    Essentially what we have here is an issue of completely repackaging someone else's product and reselling it. Something easy to do with tetris because there isn't a lot to add or remove or to create your own.

    A dangerous precedent, and foolish.
    The expression (Art) should be covered, and the code should be covered, but if I write something myself with graphics that are not the same, that should be fine.
    I doubt this would stand under appeal, the author mentions how important precedent is, well one could argue (and you hear it a lot) that windows copied apple, apple copied xerox, that every smartphone is copying the iphone, ect.
    Regardless of how much is true the fact is that copying an idea is not infringement (unless overly-broad patents are involved, which is a whole different problem). Copying ideas and improving on them is how the IT ( and by extension the gaming ) industry works, without it there would only be one product per genre. All platformer games might be Mario games because everything else had too similar core mechanics.

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