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Do I need to obtain copyright permissions before publishing a board game strategy guide e-book?

Austin, TX |

I want to write a strategy guide for a Fantasy Flight Games board game, specifically, Blood Bowl: Team Manager.

Do I need to get permission from the company before doing so? Can I use images of their cards if I properly cite that they are copyrighted by Fantasy Flight Games?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Best answer

    I should point out, in addition to the advice of my colleagues, that not just Fantasy Flight games rights are implicated here, but also those of the extremely litigious Games Workshop. If you're a fan of the genre, you likely know that Games Workshop sues fan-made products on an almost daily basis, regardless of size. If you want to publish this as an e-book, which arguably may compete with the Living Rulebook for Blood Bowl, you're just taunting the beast. You absolutely should have an attorney review your plan for this and give you an in-depth review of your options and the best strategy moving forward. There may be exceptions that may apply that will allow you to do this, but you also have to weigh the potential cost of being sued anyway (even if it's a losing case) and the potential legal hassle you may receive from both FFG and GW.

    I focus my practice on (video) gaming industry, casino gambling, and complex internet law issues, electronic free speech, entertainment law, copyright and trademark law, and computer fraud. I primarily represent game developers and founders of emergent internet technologies. The author is a Maryland attorney; however no answer given on Avvo is intended as legal advice or intended to create an attorney-client relationship.


  2. I suggest that you consult an IP lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. Even if you avoid any copyright infringement, which may be difficult, they may be able to claim that your product interferes and adversely affects theirs even if it otherwise appears that you should fall under a fair use exception. I would frankly want to explore it in more detail.

    Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

    Best regards,
    Frank
    Natoli-Lapin, LLC
    (see Disclaimer)

    The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. 866-871-8655 Support@LanternLegal.com DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.


  3. You might be able to legitimately claim "fair use" in your references to their game but the best and safest strategy is to 1) retain your own counsel and 2) through that counsel contact them to confirm that you would only refer to their game & use their IP in a fair use, therefore not infringing any of their IP rights. Your own original write-up about the game and how to play it is automatically your own copyrighted work which you could register with the Copyright Office.

    Alex Butterman is a trademark attorney with Staas & Halsey LLP (http://www.staasandhalsey.com), a Washington, D.C. IP boutique law firm. Alex is admitted to the bars of Washington, D.C., New York and New Jersey but, unless otherwise specified, the answer is intended to be general enough to apply to any U.S. state and based primarily upon his knowledge and experience with applicable federal laws. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of his firm, Avvo or other attorneys. This answer is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship or obligations are established herein, although consulting an attorney to discuss your specific situation is strongly recommended. This is especially true of trademark law because TM law is so fact-specific and full of esoteric nuances and exceptions that could easily result in a critical legal error without proper advice from experienced trademark counsel.


  4. You and your own intellectual property attorney need to start with the premise that the law most certainly permits a person to write and publish a book about how to play, and master, a name-brand board game without any permission from the game manufacturer -- and that necessarily includes publishing the name of the game. The more elements from the game that you include in the book, however, the more legally gray is your right to do so. The endpoint on the unlawful end of that spectrum is publishing a book named and advertised as "The Official Guide to Board Game X" which includes exact reproductions of numerous creative elements of the game when, in fact, the book is not sponsored or endorced by the game manufacturer. Where is the happy medium? Only you and your own attorney can work that out.

    The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


  5. Q:"Do I need to obtain copyright permissions before publishing a board game strategy guide e-book?"
    A: Depends on the particulars of the book. It is possible you don't if you use only the minimum necessary of copyrighted material and only the minimum brand names and terms descriptively or nominatively. If you aren't sure what is descriptive or what is nominative, then you need to learn much more or consult an attorney who does. The type of attorney you need is an IP attorney.

    Q;'I want to write a strategy guide for a Fantasy Flight Games board game, specifically, Blood Bowl: Team Manager. Do I need to get permission from the company before doing so? "
    A: See prior answer. If you don't know then you need to see an IP attorney. We don't have enough facts to tell you here.

    Q:"Can I use images of their cards if I properly cite that they are copyrighted by Fantasy Flight Games?"
    A: No, giving credit does not get you permission, and it likely increases chance of copyright and trademark infringement since it shows you know the material is copyright protected and know the trademarks.
    You neglected the part about you are not, in any way whatsoever, affiliated with, sponsored by or endorsed by Fantasy Flight Games.

    You were smart enough to know to ask about legality, now be smart enough to follow up and hire an attorney to give you the assistance to change the answer from illegal to legal.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.