There is one thing to keep in mind here. Back in early 2008 I myself
didn't know too much about U.S. copyright law so was sort of cowed
into giving up the game without researching it legally first. Since
then I've read up on copyright law and while I'm not an expert on it I
know enough to stay out of trouble now.
What it boils down to is a company can copyright trademarks,
characters, music, sounds, storyline, etc but they can not copyright
an entire idea. So what that means is that Edos Interactive can
copyright a trademark like Tomb Raider because it belongs to a
specific product complete with its own unique storyline, characters,
music, etc. They can copyright the characters for their Tomb Raider
games like Lara Croft because she is a unique and specific character
within that game world. Of course, the artest who compose the music
for the games can copyright that because it was specifically written
and performed for that product. All of these things make up the Tomb
Raider product, and can b be copyrighted based on specifics that make
them unique from other games or products of that type.
What Edos Interactive can not do is hold an exclusive copyright on a
concept like a female archeologist because it is too generic. Author's
like Alex Archer has written a 26 book series called Rogue Angel about
a female archeologist who hhappens to rediscovers Joan Of Ark's magic
sword and uses it to right wrongs and so on. Alex Archers female
archeologist, Onia Creed, and Edos Interactive's female archeologist,
Lara Croft, are completely different and each hold separate
copyrights under U.S. copyright law because they are very different
characters. So to come after my lead character, Angela Carter, Edos
Interactive or Alex Archer would have to prove in what way I
infrindged upon Lara Croft or Onia Creed. Which I have not infringed
on either character.
However, I think what happened is by changing the name to Montezuma's
Return I unintentionally atracted the attention of Utopia who had
produced a game titled Montezuma's Return in 1998. The original game,
Montezuma's Revenge, had been published by Parker Brothers in 1984,
and was of course available for download from a number of Atari rom
sites for free. Its quite possible in hind sight had I not changed the
name of the game from Montezuma's Revenge to Montezuma's Return I
wouldn't have landed in hot water. As I don't blame Parker Brothers
for any part of what went down in 2008.
That said, your argument is based on a false asumption. Montezuma's
Revenge was abandonware therefore it is legal to clone it. that's not
true. The way copyright law works regardless of weather or not a
software company supports a game, declares it freeware, abandonware,
whatever does not mean the company does not have any copyright control
over it. Companies can hold a copyright for a product long after the
life time of the original programmers have passed away and most people
have forgotten the product existed. It really is up to the company if
they want to legally protect those copyrights after a certain amount
of time has passed.
For instance, you mentioned a number of classics like Packman,
Asteroids, etc. You are right those are copyrights held by Activision,
but I don't believe Activision really cares about shutting down every
clone or possible copyright infringement case because they've made
their millions off those games already. If Hasbro wants to create an
electronic handheld Packman game they legally have to licence the game
from Activision, but if a free open source programmer develops a
Packman game for Linux Activision is going to blow it off because
there is no money in suing the developer. The intent to release the
game as freeware and not for commercial gain makes a huge difference
in court cases of copyright infringement.
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