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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 . 

What do you think about this court ruling? Leave your comments below. 

Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often.

Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.

  • Robert “Robovski” Turner

    But what about the Saga of Epic Crush Candy?

  • Hedger

    wow… i think thats a rather nuanced and correct judgement coming coming from a court, and in texas of all places.

    Basically, you cant copyright rules. Everything else can be protected, but the idea of the contest is fair game…

  • garf02

    >people that dont understand the concept under something gets to decide if its right or wrong.
    If you take Magic the Gathering, all mechanics and concept, but change the names and arts, then udner this guys logic, its not violating anything

  • Krimhelm

    That’s basically what Yu-Gi-Oh is.

  • Galbador

    It is ridiculous to say that a person mustn’t make a game like you can buy already with alteration. If that would be the case, the world would be freaking limited to a few product, that were made first. After all, copying is not allowed.

  • Nope Naw

    MtG is ‘patented’, however. So this ruling would only apply to bits of it.

  • Robert Grosso

    specific terms I believe. Tapping, for example, you can’t say that anywhere in a game rulebook because Wizards pateneted the term when it comes to their cards. It’s why other games with similar mechanics say “turn, flip, exhaust, tilt” or whatever.

  • Nope Naw

    It’s more than just the term. The patent regards the entire idea of designating a card as an expended resource (actually, way more than that, but that’d become a huge topic on its own). If it was only the term itself, it wouldn’t be a patent. It’d be a copyright or a trademark.

  • m-p{3}

    Reminds me of Oracle v. Google and the concept of copyrightable APIs.

  • Toastrider

    I remember the Legend of the Five Rings CCG used the term ‘bow’ specifically because of WotC’s hold on the ‘tap’ term.