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Is a Screenshot Copyright protected?


Proclaimer

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Are screenshots copyright protected, for instance, a screenshot of a game what are the copyright laws on that? Is this not just a derivative work and therefore similar to a photograph?

What about a game where content can be modified by the end user, repainted for example. Like in Microsoft Flight Sim. If someone has modified the original livery (reskinned) on the plane, can they dictate what can and cannot be done with a screenshot that another user takes?

Can the EULA restrict screenshots being taken and posted in a forum for example? If the EULA in the first place does not restrict screenshots can a third party that has made a derivative work, (reskin) restrict screenshots of their derivative work?

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Forum Editor

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A screenshot is an image,and the copyright in an image is vested in the person who created it. That person would simply have copyright in the image itself - nothing to do with the game,unless by publishing the image the copyright holder infringed the intellectual property rights of the game's producer.

Modifying a game's content may be a permitted action according to the software's EULA, and there's nothing to prevent someone making a screenshot of the modification - it would again be a case of copyright in the image being vested in its creator. As long as the image wasn't used to infer any intellectual property right in the software itself there would be no problem.

The EULA relates to the use of the software itself, and doesn't prevent anyone from making screenshots. To be on the safe side, I would advise that any publication of the image itself should be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the game company's rights in the software, and of any trademark if a registered trademark exists.

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Proclaimer

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'To be on the safe side, I would advise that any publication of the image itself should be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the game company's rights in the software,'

That part I can see as being prudent and wise. The situation I have tried to clarify goes further though, whereby a third party modifies the original model livery produced by the game company, which they allow. The third party then has some right I believe in this new colour scheme. It is their digital art after all even if it is an impression of a real world brand name. Presume it to be a 3D model of A 747 that was originally in BA livery and the third party repaints that to Virgin Livery.

The original content provider does not restrict the modification and encourages screenshots by providing the ability to take them from within the 3D world. The third party restricts, in fact claims no screenshots of the work can be displayed at all and claiming copyright law allows this restriction.

This is where a grey area seems to be. A Google search brings up IP rights in screenshots because they are 'software'. In this case I just have no idea who owns the created screenshot IP rights or if indeed any actually exist. There is no precedent set in court to test this, just speculation about 'fair use' which also seems vague on the matter.

Mostly I am curious but it does have some real world reference for me too as I do run site that uses screenshots to display items available for download.

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Forum Editor

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"The third party then has some right I believe in this new colour scheme. It is their digital art after all even if it is an impression of a real world brand name."

The third party has an intellectual property right in the colour scheme. It exists from the point of creation, but you need to ensure that you have a date reference on that if you are really worried about copying. The other right would be copyright in the image created of the scheme, as I've already stated. If someone else copied the livery and produced a image of it there would be no infringement,unless the original image had already been 'published'.

If you copy and publish someone else's screenshots without prior consent you are technically guilty of a copyright infringement, and if you publish your own you have copyright in the image only. If you then permit others to download your images free of charge you have effectively surrendered your copyright in them. The actual colour schemes don't exist, except as computer files, and the creator of the file owns the intellectual property right in it. You can create what is called a UK Registered design right if you like. The registration costs £60,and lasts for 25 years.

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I or anyone else for that matter, would be taking the screenshot from within a copy of the 3D world of the replacement colour scheme on the original 3D model. There would be no copy of anyone screenshot produced by anyone else.

The statement that has got me curious is this one; The contents of the Pack may not be publically modified under any circumstances without written consent, including (but not limited to) taking screenshots of modified content and posting them in a public domain, or uploading modifications to any website. [sic]

I can understand and accept the large part of that statement as someone has produced the paint scheme and taken time to do so as well as make actual 3D and physics changes to this particular model, modifications which then belong to them, however the screenshot restriction seems to me to be, well wrong.

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