How do people feel about copyright of characters/plots?

Most people probably like to make their game code open source (some people probably don’t, that’s fine too),
but what to people think about the characters and plot elements of games?

Should those be completely ‘open’ too, or is it alright if people want to maintain control/ownership of the characters/plots that they create?

  • I think it’s okay for people to want to keep ownership of their plots and characters
  • I think it’s okay for people to want to keep ownership of their plots and characters, but I’d rather they were as ‘free/open’ as the code
  • I think plots and characters should be as ‘free/open’ as the code
  • I think it depends on the game/situation
  • I don’t know
  • Something else?

0 voters

this seems a bit random of you, what is the intend here?
you know this is a copyright thing, only way to have characters “open source” is if there under the public domain.

I’m developing some characters for Pokitto Grand Prix, and the outcome of this poll will influence my decision as to which characters make the final cut.
(As well as potentially influencing my decision in future games I might contribute to.)

I thought it would also be an interesting thing to guage because it’s something that’s not talked about much (in comparison to whether code should be open source or not) and it will eventually have an impact on the ‘Pokitto original characters’ situation that came up recently in another thread (including the comment beneath that one).


Could you elaborate a bit on this?

And does it really matter what the results of the poll will be?
I mean, if in the future you provide some art for a game, I suppose that it is totally your personal decision whether that specific art will be free/open or not… And if the developer of that game does not agree than he or she will have to look for other art. Or am I seeing things too simple?
Furthermore I don’t know if the average gamer really cares (at least I don’t). A great game is a great game.

not sure that this is the case with allot of games pandering to demographic, how many hammerer games have you seen, or what about the star wars games? allot of people just buy it due to branding

I am not sure if I understand what you are saying. What I mean is that in my opinion most people don’t care whether the artwork/story is free/open or not and I think they won’t stop playing a game for the fact that the artwork/story is not open/free.

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I’m slightly concerned that if I do, it might influence which options people chose.
I want people to be honest.

But I like being honest too, so I’ll put my answer in a details box.


I get quite attached to the characters that I design, so I expect there will be quite a few cases where I want to maintain ‘ownership’/‘creative control’ over those characters.

If the majority of people say characters should be as open as the code then I’d end up keeping the characters I really like to myself and using the ones I don’t care as much about.

If the majority are fine with people maintaining creative control then I’m more inclined to use the characters I’m more attached to because I won’t have to worry about backlash from wanting to maintain creative control.

I’m also thinking of the possibility of resistance/backlash if a developer announces:
“the code is open source, but the characters aren’t”.
On the surface that might not seem like an issue,but what it effectively means is:
“if you want to fork it to make a new game or mod,
you either have to get permission to use the characters or you have to replace them”
which might be a problem for some people.

This is sort of what I’m expecting the outcome will be, as so far that’s what the results suggests.

I think it’s true that branding can influence people’s decision to try a game,
but branding won’t automatically make a bad game into a good game.
There have been a lot of terrible Star Wars games.

On the Pokitto there’s no “pay before you play” like with commercial games, so that’s less of an issue anyway.
If people play a game because ‘branding’ and don’t like it, they haven’t lost anything.

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would this also be the case if your co-create a character with the community?

this might not always be the case though, i heard something about a patreon, and theres also potential of a branded version for the hardware (case and point see the tetris arduboy)

Well, you don’t need a character or a plot to be “open” in order to learn from it, but you do for code. Also a plot isn’t likely to ruin your hardware or private life either.

So I feel like it’s best to keep the control for those. I wouldn’t be happy to see one of my characters being used in a degrading way without my consent… I think characters/plots (and more generally art stuff) are much more personal than code (I’m not saying that they require more or less work!) and asking for permission for a given use isn’t that much anyway, especially at this level - pokitto programs

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Depends what you mean by ‘the community’ I guess.
I struggle to imagine a co-creation scenerio with more than about 2-3 people,
and by that point it would probably feel like more of a group effort anyway.

From what I gathered, Patreon is a last resort.
Jonne was very reluctant to go down that route.

I don’t think that would go down very well.
Most people weren’t very interested in the Tetris Microcard.
Some people bought them purposely to remove Tetris and flash a different game (e.g. Filmote’s 1943).

@carbonacat I very much agree with everything you said.

Yeah basically not bieng completely your own work for the character and writing. I don’t have a good example for this that’s decent apart from like comunitive writings like scp.

Idk maybe a better example is in the public domain. Every classic universal monster is in there. Or call of Cthulhu. Lifting assets or characters from there is fine and people might recognize it, and you don’t have to feel to overprotective of it.

(Btw a classic monster karting game sounds kinda funny too make xD)

I probably wouldn’t get involved in SCP, but if I did I’d be implicitly signing my rights away anyway because of their rules, so the decision there would be whether to commit it to the SCP wiki or whether to keep it and make it non-SCP.

If you’re contributing an element to an already existing SCP story, then it’s never really yours to begin with, and again the question becomes “to contribute, or not to contribute?”.

Surprisingly some aren’t. We had a problem with Dark & Under where we had to change some monster names because one of the game board companies had trademarks for the monster names.

(“Beholder” and… I can’t remember the other. Looked like an angry cat.)

I guess it depends how much you’d differentiated from the original monster.

Something like Cthulhu is probably always going to feel like a lovecraft thing because it’s so iconic, but someone might create a vampire character that feels really unique.

A character is more than just their species, a good character has personality and quirks, and that’s the sort of thing you get attached to.

Beholder is dungeon and dragons original monster same for mind flayer, (not sure about your cat I’m assuming khajiit) but dnd is a good example cuz the halfling is a legal way to go around hobbit.

My opinion is of course everything should be open, but let me take a look at it from a more pragmatic point of view:

If your basic premise is to make money by licensing the work, then obviously you must keep the rights. In this case, please, don’t do what Arduventure (Arduboy game) did – the plot and the characters, which they reserve all rights for, are mixed with the code, which they licensed as MIT. That’s very, very bad, it’s not at all clear where the line between code and the rest is drawn. Rather make a separate folder for code and for the assets and say this one is MIT and this one is all rights reserved.

If you want the characters made open, but would like to keep the rights “just in case it becomes real succesfull”, then I would say this: The outcome is almost certainly to just be a restrictive and more discouraging content for the community, because the work most likely won’t ever become successful enough to have a significant commercial potential – that is extremely rare in case of random works of individuals. For a work with commercial potential you usually need to invest money, explore the market, make some plans etc. So – if it’s just “I want to keep this lottery ticket”, I would really advise to throw the ticket away and rather open the content for the community, that will almost certainly bring you at least an appretiation of the community in return – which can actually lead to you making money as well if you really want to and establish yourself this way – it’s slower and more work, but more real than betting on a very slim chance .

Open characters will also encourage the merchandise creators and sellers, because they won’t have to pay for the IP – that means no money for the creator (you), but don’t forget that it’s not just the IP that’s making them money, it’s mostly their added value – the manufacturing, advertisement, running the shop etc. So it’s not like they’re robbing you, you would have to make this extra investment as well if you wanted to make profit on the characters. So no need to feel bad about this, you’re at least getting free advertisement of your work from them.

As far as I’m concerned, money doesn’t even come into this.

It’s more about emotional attachment to the characters.

Leaving a character free for anyone to use will inevitably lead to someone using the character in a way you’re not happy with.
For a character you don’t care about so much it’s less of an issue, but if it’s a character you care about it can be quite hurtful.

Remember, we’re not talking about big games companies for whom IP is worth millions in revenue here,
we’re talking about everyday people who give up their spare time to create games.




since I have some experience of the matter, is everybody clear on the difference between copyright and license?

Copyright is something that is borne automatically to the author of an original body of work. If the said work is part of your work as an employee, you may give the rights to the financial gain and usage of your work to your employer, but even so you retain the rights as the inventor/originator.

License is a means by which you allow others to use your work. If the work done by others is a derivative that differs significantly from yours, in a way that it has become its own body of work (for example a colourized, completely new graphics to Castleboy), you can’t prevent others from doing their derivative even if you disallow derivatives in a license.

Copyrights are under the jurisdiction of laws. Licenses are, by comparison, much lighter legal obligations. If a license is running foul of copyright law, the law overrules the license.

People think licenses are the end-all documents. In reality they are bloody hard to defend in court.


Oh I see, it’s a valid point, though I think it’s only a matter of perspective. Personally I never feel this way so I didn’t even realize it, but I do understand some people simply want it to be this way. There’s no license that would really protect you from this though – people will make memes or fan fiction out of anything, no matter what license, and even rightfully on the grounds of fair use. But you are right and it is true that in this sense your IP is more “protected” by not opening it “officially”, but at the same time it is equally as limited to give life to something good, which is something that’s similarly emotional to me – it makes me sad to see something really good come to waste or miss the opportunity to unleash its potential.

This question of emotional attachment is ultimately left to be answered by everyone for themselves.

True, that’s why I try to stress how important it is to make the licensing very clear and use the widely used licenses that have been tested in courts. In practice anything can happen, but clear licensing is the best way to minimize the possibility of something bad happening. Even if deciding to not use a FOSS license, please excplicitly state that you’re not opening this. As with anything, licenses are not a perfect solution, but the best we have at the moment.

Technically copyright holders can sue people for fanfiction on the grounds of copyright infringement if it doesn’t meet the criteria for ‘fair use’ in some jurisdictions, but it’s rarely worth the effort to do so.

Regardless of that though, if you hold the copyright you can at least say to people “I’m not happy with you using this character in your game”,
if your character had been contributed to the public domain, you can’t even complain.

Imagine how you would feel if someone took a character you’d put in the public domain and used it in anti-FOSS propaganda.

That situation can happen regardless of openness.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of open source programs in the corners of GitHub and GitLab that will never find use.
Most repos never even get a single star or a fork.

You can always complain :slight_smile: The only thing you can’t do is take it to the court.

I’m okay with that really. Or better said, I’m no less frustrated about it than if any other work was used that way.

I do realize I can’t explain this strictly with logic, but I would like people to know you don’t have to feel bad when your work is used or abused in a way you yourself wouldn’t do – this is how most people feel and I partly blame the overstress of IP for this mentality, but you can choose to not feel that way. It is a state of mind that you can adopt if you want to live more peacefully.

Anyway, let me not get too philosophical again, I think that is my contribution to this thread. Now let people’s informed decisions be respected whatever they be.


Oh and just to make it clear – I am not really talking to you specifically @Pharap, I know you know all about licenses and that your decisions are informed, and you have a lot of valid points. This is more of a general talk to people who are new to this, as I understood this thread to be just general talk. If you personally want to keep all rights for your characters or license them NC or anything, that’s fine of course.

What I am trying to say is copyrights and licences and patents are worthless unless you have the means of fighting something in court.

IP protection is the exclusive luxury of big companies with deep pockets.

The real reason to be open-source is that if you publish your work, your work becomes prior art and prevents others from patenting similar things and preventing you from continuing development.