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Legal opinion on 3D model copyright

A topic by tonycoupland created Jan 07, 2017 Views: 833 Replies: 4
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I would like to add more voxel drawn ships to my game as unlockable extras but I wondered what the legal position is with copyright of space ships from other media. For example, I drew the model below using Magica but it bares a likeness to another space ship from a sci-fi movie series.

Since I produced the model myself - all be it inspired by another - do I need to obtain a license? I imagine getting a license as a one-man indie developer is impossible or incredibly costly, so is there another way?

I've tried googling this but don't seem to be able to find a conclusive answer.

Thanks in advance.


Deleted post

Thanks, yes that is helpful.

Following the link kind of talks entirely about clips and still images which I kind of where I see the grey area - they are protecting the images, but not the 'idea'.

I'm sure there must be something legally prohibitive otherwise anyone could create content that would impact their brand, but I'm not sure what this - whether its copyright law or trademark etc.

This article is helpful, but still doesn't really answer the question of if using the 'character' the milenium falcon in an unrelated game is legal or not

Got to bookmark that link for further reading - thanks for sharing

I remember coming across this Reddit gamedev user who is a video game attorney
This person has been a big source of help for law and related, to the community over there, and my best guess is messaging this person about your specific case


I've put a note on Reddit and see if he or anyone else has any thoughts.


As far as I know this is how the brand would attack you, if they wanted to: they would have to demonstrate that the Millennium Falcon is a "copyrightable character"; secondly they would have to demonstrate that you have indeed produced a representation of the Millennium Falcon.

A related reference is the Batmobile lawsuit, see here and here.

You are in a gray area.

In the above case you admit yourself that it's a tribute to the Falcon. But on the other hand I didn't quite recognize it at first sight. So it looks like if you avoided referring the Falcon in the first place, you'd be more likely to be in the clear.

Secondly it's okay in the US to create representations of utilitarian things (such as branded rice cookers, cars and buildings) (discussed in above links). But the problem here is that arguably the Falcon is not utilitarian, it's just a work of art. If a judge ruled the bat mobile a copyrightable character, I can't see how the Falcon wouldn't win that too.

Be aware that these laws vary by country. In Japan you might see representations of utilitarian things but they always mangle brand names, for a reason: the law is even more unclear as to how this (like, drawing a character holding a Sony walkman) should play out in court.

Finally I think you should read on Blendswap about how they handle "fan art". The bottom line is that the industry isn't attacking fan art nowadays (they could, but it's mostly detrimental to them), at least not until it makes its way in other commercial products. As such it would be okay for you to upload your model. But if you (or somebody) refer to it as Millennium Falcon it would get labelled fan art and this is a big deterrent to devs for using it, let alone in a commercial game.

Since I wrote that much, I might as well let you know that I'd be happier to see you producing original stuff.