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seriousmods

Using Logos in Free Game Modifications

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I am a member of a community of game modders (people who 3D model and script vehicles, objects, buildings, etc) for use in a game called Farming Simulator. The work I do is distributed for free to the community, and in the case of vehicles and other machines includes logos to designate those machines/vehicles as they are in real life.

 

A number of people in the community have lately been saying that they could get into legal trouble for using a logo on a free mod. I have been looking for an answer on a variety of sites, but haven't found anything satisfactory yet.

 

So my question to those with more knowledge than me is simple: is it a legal risk to 3D model a John Deere 8430R tractor for example, label it with John Deere logos and appropriate decals, and (this is the heart of the question) release the model and associated script for free for use in a game?

 

Thanks.

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Yes, there is a risk. The fact that you distribute it for free does not change that you are using trademarks or copyrights belonging to others without their permission. One of the rights associated with a copyright or trademark is the right to control how and when the material protected by copyright or trademark is used. The holders those copyrights and trademarks may sue you for an injunction to prevent you from further use of their material and/or for money damages for infringement. Realism in your game mods is all well and good, but not when you are using the works of others without their permission.

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1 hour ago, Tax_Counsel said:

Yes, there is a risk. The fact that you distribute it for free does not change that you are using trademarks or copyrights belonging to others without their permission. One of the rights associated with a copyright or trademark is the right to control how and when the material protected by copyright or trademark is used. The holders those copyrights and trademarks may sue you for an injunction to prevent you from further use of their material and/or for money damages for infringement. Realism in your game mods is all well and good, but not when you are using the works of others without their permission.

How about the fair use clause: would that apply to game modifications?

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On 12/9/2016 at 0:49 PM, seriousmods said:

is it a legal risk to 3D model a John Deere 8430R tractor for example, label it with John Deere logos and appropriate decals, and (this is the heart of the question) release the model and associated script for free for use in a game?

 

Yes, it's a risk.  You'd be infringing the trademark rights of the companies whose logos you use without authorization.  Whether or not you'd be infringing any rights of copyright isn't readily apparent from your post.

 

 

On 12/9/2016 at 4:25 PM, seriousmods said:

How about the fair use clause: would that apply to game modifications?

 

First of all, my guess is that you're thinking about the fair use defense against copyright infringement, which is fairly well known.  Fair use is also a defense against a trademark infringement claim, but it is far less well known -- probably because it is significantly more limited than its counterpart in copyright law.  In trademark law, fair use generally only applies to criticism, analysis, and comparative advertising.  It would have no applicability in the circumstances you described.

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