A Texas Court ruling has claimed that game mechanics are not protected by copyright.
The case involves DaVinci Editrice S.R.L, the creator the card game Bang!, who sued the company Ziko Games LLC over their game Legend of Three Kingdoms. The lawsuit claimed that Legend of Three Kingdoms infringed on the copyright of the Bang! card game, claiming that Ziko stole their concept and idea willingly, as both games use identical gameplay mechanics—hidden roles, card usage, and winning conditions.
The court ruled against DaVinci Editrice, stating that the two games were “expressively different” from each other—using different art assets and aesthetic themes—which did not violate copyright infringement. The court also argued that the expressive elements of Bang! do not include gameplay mechanics. The court uses The Legend of Zelda and the game basketball as two examples of this; basketball is not protected by copyright, because it is competitive and a loosely defined progression to its mechanics, while The Legend of Zelda is protected by copyright because it follows a linear progression and predetermined path.
It is of the opinion of the court that games such as Bang! and Legend of Three Kingdoms, being competitive games with randomized mechanics, cannot make copyright claims to said mechanics. According to the court, “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”
It is unlikely this ruling will affect video games, as the court itself notes that most video games, due to following predetermined coding and progression, can have protection. For randomized mechanics for tabletop games, however, the ruling may have major repercussions as the tabletop industry continues to grow .
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