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I wish to port a 1982 arcade game to the 7800.


Being a musician I understand copyright law for the music field...but not the video games field.


Does one need to obtain permission from the company that originally created the game to port it to another platform?


I apologize for being a noob to all of this but I truly want to give back to the community that has given me so much.


Thank You in advance for any and all help.

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Does one need to obtain permission from the company that originally created the game to port it to another platform?


For something as obscure as the Atari 7800 platform, it is usually best to let sleeping dogs lie. Just my humble, 2 cents. See Pac-Man Collection, Space Invaders, etc., under the 7800. Been around and sold for years without issue.


Nonetheless, 'technically' you need to obtain permission from the company/person who currently owns the rights to the original game. However, making an near exact port with a different name would likely ensure flying under the radar even more so. See Beef Drop (BurgerTime), b*nQ(Q*bert) - Again has been sold for years without issue.


Then again, say someone was to hack/re-program Desert Falcon into a similar game as the 1982 Arcade hit Zaxxon, but called it something different like Space Eagle or Xaxxon. They may adapt many of the Arcade components/pieces, but not an exact clone, that would be 100% fine. See the plethora of Pac-Man clones for legal precedent of developing such a game.


However, a company may be more diligent and very protective...See Atari 2600 Princess Rescue and C64 The Great Giana Sisters for precedent.


The country where you originate/develop/distribute the game from will have specific laws pertaining to the matter as well.


Honestly, IMHO, your likely best bet is to go the route of Beef Drop, b*nQ. The fan/selfish part wants the Space Invaders and Pac-Man Collection route. The 100% safe method would be more along the lines of the hypothetically example of "Xaxxon"/"Space Eagle" where there are extreme similarities, but still technically a different game altogether.

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short legal answer: yes, you need to clear usage of the copyrights and trademarks with the rights holder, or else accept some % risk of a C&D or winding up on the losing end of a lawsuit.


short tactical answer: if the title isn't being used commercially, and if you're not hurting the property, and if others seem to be getting away with using the same title for homebrews on other platforms, some would argue "why not?". So long as you're willing to take the small risk, that is.



longer answer:


Copyright with games works pretty much the same as with music or any other artistic works. In the case of games, the "artistic work" may cover the game audio and visuals, and in recent years the courts have leaned towards protecting game mechanics.


Trademarks should also be considered. If the game's title, character names, etc., have been used in commercial activity, they're all covered by trademarks.


Since you're talking about cloning a game, all the above comes into play. If you want to be in the legal right, then you need to clear everything with the rights holder.


Some homebrewers make perfect clones with impunity, while others have received C&Ds for cloning just visuals and mechanics. The difference between the cases seems to balance on how financially active the property is, and how popular the homebrew becomes.


My own tactical comfort zone is that I'm fine with cloning the mechanics of a game, but not so comfortable with cloning the title and trademarks; I'd like to avoid wasting my programming efforts if I eventually have to take down the game after getting a C&D notice.


As a plus, if I'm not beholden to the original title I can avoid all of the painstaking replication work and instead focus on throwing in all kinds of crazy stuff that doesn't necessarily belong in the original.


There was a good article on clones at Gamasutra which has interesting legal background on the whole clone situation.

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I'd recommend avoiding the issue by creating your own game rather than trying to recreate (port is only applicable if you have the original source code) a game. (Although you can certainly take inspiration from other games.)


The reason I say this is because you will never be able to recreate the game perfectly and thus many will judge your work to be a failure - no matter what you've managed to achieve. And trying to match the gameplay is as difficult, if not more, than trying to recreate the graphics and sound.


I am not trying to put down all of the wonderful ports & recreations which were done originally or by the homebrew community. But I'd much rather play a new game that Super Mario Bros on my 7800 when I can play the original on the real hardware or an emulator.

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