A guy named Neil has taken down his Android game with the same game play as Settlers of Catan after facing a legal threat from Catan GmbH. (source)
The legal threat explicitly notes that game rules cannot be copyrighted, but, since the game of Catan also embodies a storyline (“Players are recent immigrants to the newly populated island of Catan.”), the associated game play thus becomes copyrightable.
I’m not a lawyer, but this appears to me to be entirely bogus (see why), but as usual the little guy is in no position to take it to court. And the real reason for the letter seems to be that Catan will be releasing their own Android app. (source)
So if I understand this correctly, the lawyers are saying that there is no law keeping anyone from changing the art of a game, rewriting the rules, and releasing it except for a big scary group of lawyers that threaten a lawsuit. If that is the case, what keeps Hasbro from releasing their version of Island Settlers (or ANY game on the market). I assume that their lawyers can beat up Catan’s lawyers.
If there is as little Intellectual Property protection as is claimed by the article writers, I would assume that we would see many more examples of “stolen” property than we do. Instead we see companies paying for the right to release games. Which suggests that there is more to IP law than we are being told by the experts in the post.
Bill, I disagree with your reasoning. It’s simply not worth Hasbro’s efforts to compete with Mayfair in a game that sells only a few hundred thousand copies a year, when it can spend its efforts entering new spaces with new games that are geared more toward the customer base it generally targets. To enter against Settlers, it would not only need a new theme and graphics, it would also have to compete for gamers who are already loyal to, and have probably already bought, Settlers.
In addition, IP and law isn’t the only thing that stops someone from stealing a game. Similar to the clown code, which was never law but worked successfully for centuries, people don’t generally copy other people’s non-patented game ideas directly because they would face a PR backlash.
I have no problem with making the developer take down the game IF and only IF there is an Android version of the game available. In fact, there is not, even if they say they are developing one. So, I think it would be reasonable to allow this game to be in place until the official one is released.
And they said that their app will be out “this spring”, well, today’s the first day of summer. Looked like they missed the boat on that one.
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