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英語化企画:Copyright: How similar can two games be?

Hello this is Yuto.

Todays article is the english version of the following article.

blog.yutokatagami.com

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Technology has rapidly advanced in the past few decades and now, everybody owns a smartphone. Games on a phone is whole new market that has come up recently and many manufactures come up with new games, many free, to win their share in the market.

The other day, an advertisement of a phone game was on TV and i noticed it to be very similar to another game I was playing. Infact, the gaming system looked exactly the same.

That made me wander, "how similar can to games be without violating the law?"

Some titles that pop out of my mind when talking about similar games are:

  Dragon Quest Builders vs Mine Craft
  Hay Day vs Line Brown Farm

Im sure you can think of many more. 

These are games with the same systems, just with different characters and music.

Im sure these games are legal, as i would expect gaming manufactures to be extra careful with the law. but how similar can two games be?

 

 

The definition of "similar"

So what exactly do i mean by a "similar" game. When do i feel like a game is mimicing another game?

Lets take two very popular RPG games, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, as an example. Although there are minor differences, these game have MANY things in common. The story is a about heroes saving the world. Dragon Quest calls its money Gold while FinalFantasy calls it Gils. Dragon Quest calls the fire magic Frizz while Final Fantasy calls it Fire. Most of the things a similar, just with different names.

But still, I personally never considered these two games were "similar." These are just two different games of the same Genre (RPG).

 

Lets take a look at something other than games.

We see news on TV about chinese amuzement parks mimicing Draemon and other japanese animation characters. These, i feel are copies. Tottaly beyond the line.

But what about Disneyland and Universal Studios? These are two completely different things of the same genre, an amuzement parks.

What about the cleaning robots?Just as Roomba became popular in japan, many japanese companies came up with similar cleaning robots. These, i feel is really close to a copy, but for some reason i would considering it more like a customization.

 

So what exactly is the clear difinition of a "copy"? Does creating a minor change protect us from violating the Copyright?

 

 

 

The CopyRight of games.

This is exactly the reason why many games are similar (pretty much the same) and still legal. In order to create a law, we need a clear definition of what we are protecting.

As long as we can clearly state what the target is, we can protect it law. For example, Music, Graphics, and story plots. Graphics within a movie is protected with the same copyright law that protects movies. Music, story plots, and source codes are somethings that can not be copied. This is why creating a copy of a play station game or downloading a ripped game from the internet is illagal.

 

Things that can not be clearly defined are hard to protect. For example gaming systems. The game I mentioned in the beginning is a game called Monster Strike. You shoot your character like a slingshot by pulling on it.

The motion of dragging is somthing very common on a smartphone so it is impossible to create a copyright saying "Every game that drags and shoots is protected by law." As we can't be specific enough, we cant create a law to protect it.

 

Games evolve. So do the laws

The site below has good examples of how the law of copyright evolved as the gaming technology advanced.

  http://www.ben.li/article/copyright/history_of_game_problem.html

To summarize it

  • The first of the commercial game were hardware based. A single hardware (a table at a coffeshop) would host a single game.Copying a game at this time meant somebody physically copying the motherboard. 
    --> Physically copying a game became illegal.
  • There was a case where a new game was created but with the same graphics of an exsiting game.
    --> A law was created to protect the graphics (movie)
  • The gaming technology evolves and now games are sold as softwares. People save their game data on the media and then to a memory card. 
    --> Gaming manufactures tries hard to ban illagally copied games and data.
  • Many people stopped buying games and started renting games for cheap.
    --> This impacted manufactures revenue so manufactures fight hard to make it illegal to rent games.
  • People start re-selling second handed games for cheap. 
    --> They try to ban this too.
  • Internet becomes popular and it becomes easy for people to download ripped games 
    --> Each manufactures claim their property by making downloading illegal

 

Summary of this article.

Game manufactures have to adapted the laws to the evolving technologies. They have been fighitng hard to protect their property/imcome.

Things that can be clearly stated, such as Movie, Graphics, Stories, Sourcecode, are protected by copyright, hence are illegal to copy them. But things that are hard to specify,  such as the gaming systems, are hard to protect as a law cannot be declared for something unlear.

 

note:

There are cases where the mimicing games has become more popular than the mimiced games. From the game manufactures point of view, they might as well mimic a popular game hoping for a hit.