Good sources of public domain IP?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Pyabo, Jun 17, 2009.

  1. Pyabo

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    Hey guys, looking for some inspiration here... I'm trying to think of the best examples of IP that is in public domain due to expired copyright... Or possibly historical stories... and of course especially stuff that could be used as game themes or setting. It's hard to come up with things that *haven't* been used before, needless to say. Here's some that have:

    Alice in Wonderland
    Wizard of Oz
    Sherlock Holmes
    Greek/Roman/Norse/Egyptian myth
    Peter Pan (although the rights to this are claimed by an existing institution... I'm not sure how that's possible since it's over 100 years old)
    Jules Vern and HG Wells novels

    There must be dozens of good sources that aren't springing to mind... maybe *because* they haven't been used in games. Anyone think of sources that are soon to expire or recently expired? Or older sources that are untapped?

    How about... Shakespeare? :) Go on, someone name a Shakespeare-inspired game! I can't think of one...

    The idea here, in case you are wondering, is to appeal to players with characters and stories they already know. It's like having some of the marketing already done for you.
     
  2. papillon

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    I know someone recently did a Romeo+Juliet game...

    Aren't the rights to Sherlock Holmes still rather complicated? I am familiar with an author who had to change the names of the characters before publishing... (Holmes was only a minor character in the story.)

    I have fond memories of various series from the 40s that I'd like to be able to scan up online, but I don't think they're free yet either. :)

    But if you're looking for public domain ideas, why not wander project gutenberg?

    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Children's_Literature_(Bookshelf)
    Little Women, The Velveteen Rabbit, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, The Reluctant Dragon, The Wind in the Willows...
     
  3. Junkyard Sam

    Junkyard Sam New Member

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    I bet you could wrangle all kinds of ideas out of Aesop's Fables!!!

    Here's an online collection. I'm glad you made me think of these - I haven't looked at them in years!

    http://aesopfables.com/
     
  4. CasualInsider

    CasualInsider New Member

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  5. zoombapup

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    Personally, I've always been inspired by other cultures for ideas. In particular american indians and aboriginal culture seems pretty rich.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamtime

    Seems like a theme that could be used in a game, if done tastefully.
     
  6. Pyabo

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    Yea, some good ones on the Project Gutenberg list:

    Dracula (weeeell... done quite a bit already)
    Count of Monte Cristo
    Tom Sawyer / Huck Finn
    The Iliad

    OK quick, someone give us a game design idea based on Walden. :)
     
  7. Cartman

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  8. CheapDevotion

    CheapDevotion New Member

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    I believe that the Robin Hood IP is now in the public domain. Who doesn't want to rob from the rich and give to the poor?
     
  9. CasualInsider

    CasualInsider New Member

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    How can English folklore not be in the public domain? :rolleyes:
     
  10. Sybixsus

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    Yes, I believe you're right. I think all of the stories are now public domain in the EC, but I think US copyright law protects all of the stories published in 1923 or later for 95 years, which means there's some time to go yet.

    To further complicate things, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (and possibly some other characters) are trademarked. I have no idea if/when trademarks expire, but I'm pretty sure that the SH ones have not yet.
     
  11. Greg Squire

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  12. Desktop Gaming

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    You need to be really careful with this. While the original work may be out of copyright, a derivative work likely would not be. For example, "War of the Worlds" was written in 1898. Whilst you might be able to make a game of that*, you'd be in a heap of trouble if you directly based it on either of the 1959/2005 movie adaptations.

    * This is just an example - I'm not making any claim that War of the Worlds is 'fair game'.
     
  13. papillon

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    (There has been at least one War of the Worlds computer game... it was a strategy game of some sort. Used the music from the stage show, too.)
     
  14. Pyabo

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    haha... perfect, papillon!

    Robin Hood is a great suggestion. I think there was an old Cinemaware Robin Hood game? But can't think of a recent one. That's my favorite suggestion so far.

    As for Sherlock Holmes... he's been done. I don't see any copyright issues though, as most of the original ACD stories predate 1923 by a long shot. Wikipedia doesn't mention any issues with the copyright, unlike Peter Pan.
     
  15. Sybixsus

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    As I said, the characters are trademarked, so there not being any issues with copyright doesn't help much if you can't use any of the names.

    http://www.sherlockholmesonline.org/LicensingInfo/index.htm

    Since writing my previous reply, I read up on when trademarks expire, and apparently they don't. So long as they are defended and so long as they do not fall into common usage, they don't expire.
     
  16. Allen Varney

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    With Sherlock Holmes the issue isn't copyright but trademark. The original Conan Doyle stories are out of copyright, but the Holmes character is still heavily trademarked.

    I echo the Project Gutenberg suggestion, especially the kids' books from the turn of the 20th Century, like Tom Swift. For an interesting sort-of IP, or at least a gallery of interesting character types, look into the stock characters of Italian and French commedia dell'arte from the time of Moliere.
     
  17. Rickard

    Rickard New Member

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    Speaking of British folklore;
    There's a lot of stuff to grab from the Arthurian myths (DaoC is a great example of this)

    How's Lord Dunsany holding up? I guess some of his stuff should have their copyright expired?

    Aren't there exceptions to the 95 year rule? For those cases where the property is still "maintained" etc?
     
  18. Allen Varney

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    Dunsany's Project Gutenberg entry has a lot of his early non-Jorkens short fiction, so presumably they've determined it's in public domain. Their cutoff date seems to be 1922, which matches what I understand to be the cutoff date for public domain.
     
  19. mot

    mot
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  20. Stefan Maton

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    The name of the game is "Defender of the Crown".

    There's also a game called "Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood" by Spellbound (a german games company; dunno if dev or pub).

    Have fun...
     

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