Author Topic: Lasguns and copyright  (Read 1663 times)

Simeon Blackstar

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Lasguns and copyright
« on: June 20, 2012, 02:24:39 PM »
Hi guys,

The recent sale of some of the unreleased lasweapons on eBay got me thinking about converting up a set of my own. I had a Vostroyan one mostly done and a Necromunda-pattern one just needing a bit of pinning together (pics will follow when complete), but there are loads of other lovely old patterns out there. The question I need to ask is this: what would I need to do if I wanted to let other people use them too?

Firstly, sale of any resin copies which are cast from any GW parts is clearly out, but how much of a lasgun  is copyrighted? If I sculpt something which they've only depicted, does their copyright cover the 2D drawing only or a 3D representation of it? After all, "The idea alone cannot be protected by copyright. It is the physical use of that idea, such as an illustration or a written novel, that is covered under copyright law." If that's out, what about the iconic flash-suppressor thingy at the end which all lasweapons have? Would remaking that be a copyright violation?

I suppose it might be easiest not to sell them and just trade for bits. I was talking with a GW staffer who makes HALO armour and the like who said they're not really allowed to sell their bits, but they "make them available to the community" on the understanding that others will do the same for them.

Long story short: how to let people have lasguns without me getting nasty cease and desist letters.  ;)

Offline Charax

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Re: Lasguns and copyright
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2012, 03:16:29 PM »
Well first off, as always, the law depends on the countries involved (country of manufacture and country of sale)

Secondly, getting a C&D from GW doesn't necessarily mean they're legally in the right, they're prone to sending those off on a whim even when things like fair use are clearly in effect

and thirdly, these are precisely the issues involved in the Chapterhouse lawsuit, so a lot of them aren't concretely resolved.

Your main problem is trademarks, rather than copyright - Even though GW only bothered to register about a dozen of their trademarks, they can still build a case around use of unregistered trademarks, so don't call them Lasguns, don't mention the Imperium or the Inquisition or Inquisitor, just call them 54mm laser weapons and never anything else

Personally, so long as you leave things like Aquilas off of it and aren't precisely copying a GW design (2D or 3D) then you should be fine, even the "iconic" flash-supressor should be fine, even if you sell them (and I have way more money than I have Inquisitor parts, so I approve of that)

Just carry on until you get a C&D yourself, I say - at that point you slightly change the design, change the distribution model a bit, and keep at it :)
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Offline Heroka Vendile

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Re: Lasguns and copyright
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2012, 03:29:43 PM »
Although the Chapterhouse case isn't resolved yet, I think I read somewhere that the preliminary verdict is that just because you create something in a piece of artwork, you have no claim over the physical representation of items within said artwork unless you make them publicly known. Apparently this is a part of the reason for things like Stormravens and some Dark Eldar/Necrons stuff being codex entries that didn't have any official artwork on show until the model was released.

So by this reckoning you can make and sell lasgun variants straight from the artwork that haven't had GW own versions for sale.

As Charax says though, leave of distinguishing marks like Aquilas and there's not a whole lot they're going to be able to do. It's not like you're looking at making your millions from such a super niche small-run product.
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Offline Cortez

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Re: Lasguns and copyright
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2012, 02:14:37 PM »
I also think the term lasgun is safe to use as it was used by Frank Herbert in Dune long before Games Workshop existed. However definitely leave off any copyrighted symbols like the aquila (even though that's based on real world heraldic devices).