Announcements

Over Labor Day Weekend, our repository server gained sentience and walked away.

It's back and said it just went for a walkabout and didn't mean to cause any distress. What is interesting though, is it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of these "motorheads" we've heard about.

Thank you all for your concern, and batteries.

The motherboard manufacturer sent a replacement part and we have put the repository server back together. We are back up and running and will now continue our regularly scheduled programming. (please pardon the pun)

Superhero names - What's the gray area?

16 posts / 0 new
Last post
The Hybrid
The Hybrid's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 10 min ago
Joined: 11/18/2017 - 04:21
Superhero names - What's the gray area?

It's come to my attention after the Rottweiler thing that people are afraid of a lawsuit for sharing the same name with another character. Thing is, I would like to know exactly what the gray area is when it comes to these names because there's plenty of cases of fictional names being shared.

Examples:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NamesTheSame
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SimilarlyNamedWorks

Specifics:

Both Marvel and DC have supervillains named Scarecrow. Ditto for Enchantress. And they have superheroes named Captain Marvel (it's a long story)
There's a Tracer in Marvel, DC, Transformers, and of course, Overwatch.
Slipknot is a minor DC villain, but is much more widely recognized as a mask metal band from Iowa.
Nova is the name of a Marvel superhero. Also the name of a psionic assassin in Starcraft.
Radioactive Man, from the Marvel Universe or from the Simpsons?

There's more but you get the point. I feel like at this point it's impossible for characters not to share the same name with others. So what is the gray area so to speak? Just wanted to see what others think.

blacke4dawn
blacke4dawn's picture
Offline
Last seen: 14 hours 10 min ago
Joined: 03/28/2015 - 03:02
As far as I know as long as

As far as I know as long as they are not trademarked you're fully free to use them. Even if they are technically trademarked they may not enforce it since they see little value in doing so, thus effectively dropping it.

As for "mapping" out a gray area here, that will be very hard.

Foradain
Foradain's picture
Offline
Last seen: 24 min 25 sec ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 10/25/2013 - 21:06
"Names and distinctive

"Names and distinctive likenesses" is how I usually see the trademark warning. So step one for me if I want to use the name is to avoid making the appearance the same, or even too similar. Thus Tinker Belle (in addition to restoring the space in the name from the (now public domain) play and novel) does not have dragonfly wings or blonde hair. And her gadgets' effects do not look remotely like pixie dust. Similarly, because her nom du cape has the same etymology as that of a member of the Suicide Squad from the late eighties or early nineties, for the Duchess I steered clear of the appearance of the former orphanage guard from Apocalypse.

Another point to consider is that inverse ninjitsu seems to apply. The more characters with the same name you can find, the more likely it is that no one has been attempting to trademark it.

Foradain, Mage of Phoenix Rising.
Foradain's Character Conclave
Avatar courtesy of Satellite Nine.
If you can't see an image I've posted, please let me know!

Lothic
Lothic's picture
Online
Last seen: 8 min 26 sec ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 10/02/2013 - 00:27
I'm assuming there could be

I'm assuming there could be some names that are going to be filtered out just because they are super-obviously trademarked. For example I'd be amazed if CoT allows us to make any character named Superman or Captain America regardless.

Beyond that if you're smart about it you could probably get away with using other names as long as you don't try to make exact identical clones of existing characters. For example you might be allowed to name a character Incredible Hulk as long as your version is a 10 year old girl wearing a pink tutu. But if you were dumb enough to make an Incredible Hulk that's a huge green guy powered by gamma radiation then I'd expect to see your character get reported and "genericized" by a GM almost instantly.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Huckleberry
Huckleberry's picture
Offline
Last seen: 23 min 49 sec ago
Joined: 01/03/2016 - 08:39
Lothic wrote:
Lothic wrote:

But if you were dumb enough to make an Incredible Hulk that's a huge green guy powered by gamma radiation then I'd expect to see your character get reported and "genericized" by a GM almost instantly.

I was going to say that's not the case, because no laws are broken as long as the player isn't making money off the character or displaying it in such a way as to alter the perception of the character in the public's eye (thereby infringing upon the intellectual property and the owner's rights to make money off it).

But then I got to thinking about all the streamers and videos that are made and the headaches that people would have trying to sanitize everything. Nope. Can't stream that and collect advertising revenue from Youtube because some nitwit in the background is tromping around as The Incredible Hulk. Yeah. I'm sure that MWM would have to show they made every reasonable attempt to stop its playerbase from re-creating existing published heroes.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
Lothic
Lothic's picture
Online
Last seen: 8 min 26 sec ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 10/02/2013 - 00:27
Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:
Lothic wrote:

But if you were dumb enough to make an Incredible Hulk that's a huge green guy powered by gamma radiation then I'd expect to see your character get reported and "genericized" by a GM almost instantly.

I was going to say that's not the case, because no laws are broken as long as the player isn't making money off the character or displaying it in such a way as to alter the perception of the character in the public's eye (thereby infringing upon the intellectual property and the owner's rights to make money off it).

But then I got to thinking about all the streamers and videos that are made and the headaches that people would have trying to sanitize everything. Nope. Can't stream that and collect advertising revenue from Youtube because some nitwit in the background is tromping around as The Incredible Hulk. Yeah. I'm sure that MWM would have to show they made every reasonable attempt to stop its playerbase from re-creating existing published heroes.

If CoT enforces the same GM policing policies that CoH did (and there's no real reason to expect otherwise at this point) they will nearly instantly deal with any character that too closely resembles (in name and look) any obviously trademarked clone. I saw plenty of players in CoH with their names changed by GM to things like "Generic0006" as well as heard of other players who suffered greater punishments (i.e. account bans) for multiple offenses.

Yes, in order to avoid attracting the attention of the likes that triggered the Marvel lawsuit against CoH the GMs of CoT will have to remain constantly vigilant against this sort of thing. With the greater degree of costume customization we'll hopefully have in CoT this issue might turn out to be even more problematic than it ever was in CoH.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Project_Hero
Project_Hero's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 days 15 hours ago
Joined: 10/09/2014 - 11:21
CoH also had, I believe, a

CoH also had, I believe, a clause in the terms and conditions of use that stated that any character made in CoH was then NCsofts intellectual property. So if you could make a giant green purple pants wearing guy and named it "Hulk" NC soft would essentially be attempting to claim ownership of that, not that they'd pursue it of course. But that kind of legal jargon I imagine would cause offense.

Also as far as making money off of such things goes... If someone made a character that looked like the Hulk, was named they Hulk, and then spent their time tromping around doing Hulk things well then in some way the game publishers/creators would be making money off of that Hulk likeness. Hulk player pays his sub to stomp about as the Hulk. Therefore in a sense someone is making money off of the Hulk's likeness.

"Let the past die. Kill it if you have to."

Lothic
Lothic's picture
Online
Last seen: 8 min 26 sec ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 10/02/2013 - 00:27
Project_Hero wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

CoH also had, I believe, a clause in the terms and conditions of use that stated that any character made in CoH was then NCsofts intellectual property. So if you could make a giant green purple pants wearing guy and named it "Hulk" NC soft would essentially be attempting to claim ownership of that, not that they'd pursue it of course. But that kind of legal jargon I imagine would cause offense.

I would guess that MWM will likely have the same kind of verbiage in their "fine print" in order to prevent any of us pesky players from somehow earning any independent money based on MWM's hard work provided from their applications such as their costume creator.

For what it's worth I know some people will be bummed out that they're going to be "prevented" from making identical clones of existing comic book characters but it doesn't mean you can't be creative about it. For instance I made a character in CoH that looked as close to this version of Supergirl as I could make her:

But my character had several very important differences. First of all her name was nothing even remotely close to "Supergirl" and her chest emblem was not a 'letter' of any kind. Second she wasn't an "alien from Krypton" but instead a normal human with -no- inherent super powers. I built her as an Electric Blaster who relied totally on technology - she used power gloves (to shoot the electricity) and rocket boots to fly. I played this character for almost 7 years and never had a GM bother me for her "looking" too much like Supergirl.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Schinopiraph
Schinopiraph's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 months 3 weeks ago
kickstarter
Joined: 09/18/2013 - 13:28
I'm no lawyer so don't quote

I'm no lawyer so don't quote me on this, but one of the reasons that Marvel or DC would have to sue over any copyrighted characters that might pop up in other media, video games or otherwise is if they don't enforce their claim to copyright over that property then they lose claim over the property and it would risk becoming public domain that anyone could use. Its the same as what happened with the vanilla WoW pirate servers. Blizzard likely didn't care too much about them so long as they wern't making a profit, however they would have had to sue and extend cease and desists on the ground that they had to enforce their copyright over World of Warcraft or risk losing it.

Now I'm not sure of the exact wording of all the copyright laws and this is just what I've pieced together from what I've read in passing, but profit or not it seems one has to show that they are the ones in control of their itellectual property or else risk losing the claim altogether to someone else.

Brand X
Brand X's picture
Offline
Last seen: 21 hours 5 min ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 11/01/2013 - 00:26
Lothic wrote:
Lothic wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:
Lothic wrote:

But if you were dumb enough to make an Incredible Hulk that's a huge green guy powered by gamma radiation then I'd expect to see your character get reported and "genericized" by a GM almost instantly.

I was going to say that's not the case, because no laws are broken as long as the player isn't making money off the character or displaying it in such a way as to alter the perception of the character in the public's eye (thereby infringing upon the intellectual property and the owner's rights to make money off it).

But then I got to thinking about all the streamers and videos that are made and the headaches that people would have trying to sanitize everything. Nope. Can't stream that and collect advertising revenue from Youtube because some nitwit in the background is tromping around as The Incredible Hulk. Yeah. I'm sure that MWM would have to show they made every reasonable attempt to stop its playerbase from re-creating existing published heroes.

If CoT enforces the same GM policing policies that CoH did (and there's no real reason to expect otherwise at this point) they will nearly instantly deal with any character that too closely resembles (in name and look) any obviously trademarked clone. I saw plenty of players in CoH with their names changed by GM to things like "Generic0006" as well as heard of other players who suffered greater punishments (i.e. account bans) for multiple offenses.

Yes, in order to avoid attracting the attention of the likes that triggered the Marvel lawsuit against CoH the GMs of CoT will have to remain constantly vigilant against this sort of thing. With the greater degree of costume customization we'll hopefully have in CoT this issue might turn out to be even more problematic than it ever was in CoH.

Which CoH was terrible at just throwing at people. :p

I know I got tagged with that for a name that wasn't in use and even searched online before and after use. Of course, when I proved my case, someone else was using the name.

So, really, I hope they don't forbid any names and are careful with any generic and not be gun happy.

blacke4dawn
blacke4dawn's picture
Offline
Last seen: 14 hours 10 min ago
Joined: 03/28/2015 - 03:02
Schinopiraph wrote:
Schinopiraph wrote:

I'm no lawyer so don't quote me on this, but one of the reasons that Marvel or DC would have to sue over any copyrighted characters that might pop up in other media, video games or otherwise is if they don't enforce their claim to copyright over that property then they lose claim over the property and it would risk becoming public domain that anyone could use. Its the same as what happened with the vanilla WoW pirate servers. Blizzard likely didn't care too much about them so long as they wern't making a profit, however they would have had to sue and extend cease and desists on the ground that they had to enforce their copyright over World of Warcraft or risk losing it.

Now I'm not sure of the exact wording of all the copyright laws and this is just what I've pieced together from what I've read in passing, but profit or not it seems one has to show that they are the ones in control of their itellectual property or else risk losing the claim altogether to someone else.

Almost right but the "defend it or loose it" principle only applies to trademarks. You can't genericize copyrights into the public domain, at worst you may loose claims on financial damage if you don't defend copyrights.

IP is a fairly broad and diverse area and afaik the only thing within that that you can loose for not using/defending it is trademarks.

Project_Hero
Project_Hero's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 days 15 hours ago
Joined: 10/09/2014 - 11:21
If not for Disney Batman and

If not for Disney Batman and Superman would be public domain by now.

"Let the past die. Kill it if you have to."

blacke4dawn
blacke4dawn's picture
Offline
Last seen: 14 hours 10 min ago
Joined: 03/28/2015 - 03:02
Project_Hero wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

If not for Disney Batman and Superman would be public domain by now.

Right but it's not due to them continuously using/defending them but rather due to them getting congress to retroactive extending the length of copyright terms for everyone, regardless of how much those were using/defending their copyrights.

Lothic
Lothic's picture
Online
Last seen: 8 min 26 sec ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 10/02/2013 - 00:27
Brand X wrote:
Brand X wrote:

So, really, I hope they don't forbid any names and are careful with any generic and not be gun happy.

Obviously I don't think anyone would want MWM to be too overly zealous in their IP policing duties. But as far as names being disallowed goes I would bet at the very least any comic book character that's been in a movie within the last 20 years will probably be off limits. That would still leave many lesser-known names up for grabs. *shrugs*

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Crimsonomen20
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 1 week ago
Joined: 01/19/2018 - 17:54
What do Batman and Superman

What do Batman and Superman have to do with Disney? They're DC, not Marvel. :P

notears
notears's picture
Offline
Last seen: 7 hours 3 min ago
kickstarter11th Anniversary Badge
Joined: 10/04/2013 - 17:24
Crimsonomen20 wrote:
Crimsonomen20 wrote:

What do Batman and Superman have to do with Disney? They're DC, not Marvel. :P

here I'll let adam explain