Monday, 2 May 2011

Can you copyright a game?

This has come up several times in recent months, with instances such as an iOS clone of Desktop Dungeons and the Sega clone of Splosion Man, and represents in my opinion an unfortunate part of maturation of our industry.

The latest contribution to this small but growing debate is a podcast at Three Moves Ahead discussing another instance of an iOS game cloning a game available on another platform. You can skip the podcast and read Bill Abner’s original No High Scores story, and the interview which is referred to frequently in the episode. While the discussion is interesting, I kept thinking they are missing the one central question: Are the rules to a game copyrightable at all? Or is it like a recipe, or fashion, which cannot be copyrighted? See e.g.

As a game designer, I’d prefer the situation where a ‘game’ is not copyrightable, because the level of protection is already sufficient for the art, computer code and fiction incorporated into the game, and trade mark protection for the name and mark on the game.

The total economic contribution by movies, literature and music is dwarfed by contribution by food and fashion.


1 Chat a Day said...


google for Monopoly copyright and be saddened. Also the concept of tapping in MtG is either copyrighted, trademarked or patented, I forget which.


Noah said...

The link to the TED talk doesn't seem to be working FYI

Andrew Doull said...

Pretty much all the TMA guys chip in on the comments thread to answer my and other developer questions, if you want a read.