(Topic ID: 138351)

Copyright and Pinball: What can you copyright?


By mr2xbass

3 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 19 posts
  • 11 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 10 months ago by ForceFlow
  • Topic is favorited by 4 Pinsiders

You

Linked Games

No games have been linked to this topic.

    Topic Gallery

    One image has been uploaded to this topic. (View topic image gallery).

    bankaball.jpg

    #1 3 years ago

    As a musician who has studied music business, I am aware there are certain guidelines as to what can actually be copyrighted in a song (e.g. you can copyright a melody and lyrics but not a chord progression or a bass line).

    I am wondering, to what extent does a pinball machine's copyright..extend?

    I assume obvious things such as artwork, sound clips, dot animations, licensed themes, the actual code of ROM files.. But is the actual layout protected? If the layout is protected, how exact is it or rather how much variation would there have to be for a second machine to not be infringing?

    For example: If I were to build a machine using P-Roc or some other platform, and the layout was identical to Centaur only that it was flipped on the vertical axis, thereby putting the shooter lane on the left side, queen's chamber on the right, etc, and of course the art and sound would be different but the rule-set was the same but programmed on a different system, maybe even different point values.. I am infringing on Bally's copyright of Centaur?

    #2 3 years ago

    Many playfields are exact copies of each other.

    For instance Bally's Playboy and Arkon's Sexy Girl. So if Bally could not sue Arkon back in Pinball's heyday, I'd say the layouts must not be subject copyright.

    #3 3 years ago

    What sparked this question is the struggle for current companies to get a sure fire winner.

    If a company could produce a machine that is already known to be a fun-to-play machine (but change the parts that are copyrighted) and sell the machine for a price considerably under what Stern/JJP/(insert new company name), seems like a win.

    Another idea along this line: Look at Stern. With Family Guy, IIRC the license ran out so they produced the rest of the machines as Shrek. Instead of them trying so hard to make a new machine, take one that was a proven player and re-theme it. With GOT on the horizon, a LOTRVE seems less likely. How big of a part was the theme in the sales of that machine? Trying to re-secure a license to do another run of that machine may be quite costly. Make the machine with a different theme. People already know it to be fun to play, just find a theme that is likely to sell well. ?

    #4 3 years ago

    The software is what makes the game.

    Look how simple AFM is.

    The most empty playfield ever made.

    Also the most fun game ever made.

    #5 3 years ago
    Quoted from vid1900:

    The software is what makes the game.
    Look how simple AFM is.
    The most empty playfield ever made.
    Also the most fun game ever made.

    I'd say 1950 Bank a Ball is the most empty:
    bankaball.jpg

    #6 3 years ago
    Quoted from mr2xbass:

    If the layout is protected, how exact is it or rather how much variation would there have to be for a second machine to not be infringing?
    For example:

    That's the $100,000 question that would probably only be answered in court with a bunch of lawyers.

    As Vid points out, in the past, there have been plenty of "copy" rip-off playfield designs in the past. But many of them were out of the US so it would probably be difficult to pursue legal action unless the games were imported for sale in the US. The Copyright protection would be for the artwork more so than the post placement. But even that was violated in some countries. Take for example, Taito copy of Black Knight (Cavaleiro Negro).

    Here is Lady Luck. Does its art look a bit familiar?

    http://www.ipdb.org/showpic.pl?id=5010&picno=23734

    Or this one:

    http://www.ipdb.org/showpic.pl?id=4569&picno=46478

    I especially like this one. The layout of Centaur, with the Art of Flight 2000:

    http://www.ipdb.org/showpic.pl?id=4579&picno=43777

    However, a more recently created product did include a license. A virtual Pinball redemption game Called SpongeBob Square Pants was based on the layout of Gottlieb's 70's King Pin EM layout. For whatever reason, the Manufacturers apparently negotiated a license from Gottlieb Development the holder of Gottlieb and Premier Copyrights.

    #7 3 years ago
    Quoted from mr2xbass:

    What sparked this question is the struggle for current companies to get a sure fire winner.
    If a company could produce a machine that is already known to be a fun-to-play machine (but change the parts that are copyrighted) and sell the machine for a price considerably under what Stern/JJP/(insert new company name), seems like a win.

    good luck with that

    Quoted from mr2xbass:

    Another idea along this line: Look at Stern. With Family Guy, IIRC the license ran out so they produced the rest of the machines as Shrek. Instead of them trying so hard to make a new machine, take one that was a proven player and re-theme it.

    except that's not at all what happened

    #8 3 years ago
    Quoted from flecom:

    except that's not at all what happened

    Then I recalled incorrectly. What was the exact situation with that one?

    I thought I remembered hearing that it was something with an over-production of FG. I just did a brief Googling and could not find any direct info supporting any reason why it happened, only that Stern made FG and used the exact layout and gameplay to make Shrek.

    I am curious though, if someone does know and would like to share more than just saying I'm wrong.

    #9 3 years ago
    Quoted from vid1900:

    The software is what makes the game.
    Look how simple AFM is.
    The most empty playfield ever made.
    Also the most fun game ever made.

    I agree, IMO the rules of the game are what makes it fun. But "software" includes rules and sound and animations. Would AFM be as fun if it was the same ruleset but different soundbites and animations (assuming the new theme was something that appealed to you the player)?

    #10 3 years ago

    Any works of media are copyrighted--music, voice, artwork, photos, code, etc.

    Trademarks protect company/product names, logos, catch phrases, and other related artwork designs to some degree.

    Unique mechanisms or methods of producing something can be patented. However, by this point, most of the pinball patents have run out and entered the public domain. Patents give the author exclusive rights of use for a period 20 years.

    Objects that are built/manufactured for use generally can't be copyrighted, unless it's classified as an "artistic work", such as a mask or sculpture. If the object itself can't be copyrighted/patented, any artwork placed on it still can be copyrighted.

    #11 3 years ago

    It hasn't ever been tested in court AFAIK but you almost certainly can't protect the layout of a game. The most similar thing I'm aware of is that you can't copyright the shape of a font, which seems much closer to an "artistic" creation than the placement of items on a pinball playfield. ForceFlow is correct that you might be able to get a design patent on it, but I don't think anyone has, and they would have expired for anything before Pin2k.

    #12 3 years ago
    Quoted from mr2xbass:

    Would AFM be as fun if it was the same ruleset but different soundbites and animations (assuming the new theme was something that appealed to you the player)?

    I'm partial to 50's sci-fi, but it's possible.

    3 months later
    #13 3 years ago

    US Copyright laws have changed over the years, with works prior to 1978 being automatically in public domain IF they were not published with either the symbol (c) or Copyright AND the date and name of the copyright holder.

    In other words if a work was published in the US without this registration it immediately entered public domain.

    Works published between 1978 and Feb 28, 1989 were only copyrighted IF they either had the symbol (c) or the word Copyright AND the name when first published in the USA - OR - if the work was not copyrighted when first published in the USA, a copyright had to have been filed within 5 (five) years of publication. After that 5 year grace time the work entered automatically into public domain.

    Works here are defined as artwork, or documents, and includes work for hire.

    Search "public domain copyright USA" and do some reading. eg: http://www.teachingcopyright.org/handout/public-domain-faq. The US Copyright office has all copyright notices either on their web site or archived on archive.org - and most records are publicly accessible.

    Since March 1, 1989 all works are copyrighted AUTOMATICALLY - whether or not they were filed in the US Copyright office.

    #14 3 years ago
    Quoted from Flippers_com:

    US Copyright laws have changed over the years, with works prior to 1978 being automatically in public domain IF they were not published with either the symbol (c) or Copyright AND the date and name of the copyright holder.
    In other words if a work was published in the US without this registration it immediately entered public domain.
    Works published between 1978 and Feb 28, 1989 were only copyrighted IF they either had the symbol (c) or the word Copyright AND the name when first published in the USA - OR - if the work was not copyrighted when first published in the USA, a copyright had to have been filed within 5 (five) years of publication. After that 5 year grace time the work entered automatically into public domain.
    Works here are defined as artwork, or documents, and includes work for hire.
    Search "public domain copyright USA" and do some reading. eg: http://www.teachingcopyright.org/handout/public-domain-faq. The US Copyright office has all copyright notices either on their web site or archived on archive.org - and most records are publicly accessible.
    Since March 1, 1989 all works are copyrighted AUTOMATICALLY - whether or not they were filed in the US Copyright office.

    Good info, but is sort of beside the point, which is the question of whether a playfield layout can even be copyrighted. It kinda seems like the answer is "probably not", but nobody posting so far seems to know for sure.

    In terms of "why doesn't someone just copy an existing successful layout for a new pin" well, for one thing, I don't think that'd be very exciting for NiB buyers, and would probably carry a bit of a lameness stigma.

    #15 3 years ago
    Quoted from mr2xbass:

    Would AFM be as fun if it was the same ruleset but different soundbites and animations (assuming the new theme was something that appealed to you the player)?

    Yes it would.

    Quoted from pezpunk:

    In terms of "why doesn't someone just copy an existing successful layout for a new pin" well, for one thing, I don't think that'd be very exciting for NiB buyers, and would probably carry a bit of a lameness stigma.

    I'd play an attack from alpha centuri. If the price under cut a new stern by several grand and had fun sounds and animations I'd even consider buying one. AFM is a great example for this because I don't think any there's any proprietary pieces (other than ramps) that couldn't be caught off the shelf. Change the look of the saucer and aliens enough to make it unique.

    #16 3 years ago

    You can copyright graphics, however layout likely falls under Design Patent.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent

    Might be interesting to find if the manufacturers file for copyrights or Design Patents. DPs protect for 14 or 15 years, copyright is much longer.

    http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-information-concerning-patents

    Someone else will have to do that checking, I have enough to do! Perhaps the person who is interested should do the research...

    #17 3 years ago

    Eye-ki-yie - (as Rickie Ricardo would say). It looks like Williams tried to patent everything mechanical about pinball back in the 80s and 90s!

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=0&f=S&l=50&TERM1=williams+electronics&FIELD1=&co1=AND&TERM2=pinball&FIELD2=&d=PTXT

    Note that patents included Ball Troughs (what about 4 Million BC, Fireball, and other multi games?), convertible pinballs (like no kits existed prior to Pinball 2000?), Interactive Play (something blocks the ball? Drop targets that are in the way of a goal...), Sensor for jet bumpers (Atarians used sensors), and so on.

    This is the real reason why pinball almost died out in the 90s, the lawyers got involved!

    Bally wasn't any better:

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=0&f=S&l=50&d=PTXT&Query=%22bally+manufacturing%22+AND+pinball

    However in neither case did I find a SPECIFIC game registered for a layout patent. So, while manufacturers patented various items (same that were around a while previously!), they didn't patent the actual game layout. So, now to search the Copyrights for specific game layouts - doubt they are there, if they are anywhere the layouts pretty much need to be in the patents.

    2 years later
    #18 10 months ago

    Hello I would like to ask a question about re-creating a pinball machine with used ,new (like a playfield repro) and Nos parts that already exist is there a copyright there!!
    Because if buying a pinball machine that is used over the years and then a pinball collector buy it,restore it, add new parts on it ,or not even add new parts ,but just accessories and he wants to make profit out of it just to make a few bucks on the side it really jacks up the price,but if you decide to go the route to recreate one with all the above I mentioned then the pinball machine will cost cheaper and it will be BRAND NEW!!
    Any suggestions !
    Thank you all .
    Jimakos

    #19 10 months ago
    Quoted from JIMAKOST:

    Hello I would like to ask a question about re-creating a pinball machine with used ,new (like a playfield repro) and Nos parts that already exist is there a copyright there!!
    Because if buying a pinball machine that is used over the years and then a pinball collector buy it,restore it, add new parts on it ,or not even add new parts ,but just accessories and he wants to make profit out of it just to make a few bucks on the side it really jacks up the price,but if you decide to go the route to recreate one with all the above I mentioned then the pinball machine will cost cheaper and it will be BRAND NEW!!
    Any suggestions !
    Thank you all .
    Jimakos

    See JIMAKOST's thread here:
    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/copyright-and-pinball-what-can-you-copyright-1

    Promoted items from the Pinside Marketplace
    $ 62.95
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    Super Skill Shot Shop
    $ 104.95
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    Super Skill Shot Shop
    $ 999.00
    Flipper Parts
    Mircoplayfields
    $ 229.99
    Lighting - Led
    PinballBulbs
    From: $ 7,500.00
    $ 18.99
    Eproms
    Matt's Basement Arcade
    $ 128.00
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 9.95
    Apparel - Unisex
    Pinball Wheezer
    $ 17.00
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    BK Pinball
    $ 89.99
    Lighting - Led
    Lighted Pinball Mods
    $ 2.00
    Playfield - Decals
    Doc's Pinball Shop
    From: $ 15.00
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    Meph's Mods
    $ 18.95
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 90.00
    Lighting - Under Cabinet
    Rock Custom Pinball
    $ 16.95
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    ULEKstore
    $ 6.00
    Electronics
    German-Pinball-Modular
    $ 219.99
    From: $ 42.00
    Cabinet - Shooter Rods
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    $ 189.99
    Lighting - Led
    PinballBulbs
    $ 28.00
    Playfield - Other
    Pin Monk
    $ 48.00
    Cabinet - Other
    ModFather Pinball Mods
    £ 29.00
    Lighting - Led
    PinballToys
    $ 89.99

    Hey there! Got a moment?

    Great to see you're enjoying Pinside! Did you know Pinside is able to run thanks to donations from our visitors? Please donate to Pinside, support the site and get anext to your username to show for it! Donate to Pinside