I asked the question at Can I legally make a free clone of a game and use the same name? because I read a question that basically asked the exact same question in the same forum ( Is it legally possible to make a clone of the game?) but didn't answer the question of whether the same rules applied for a free game. It really surprised me that people made such an issue of the appropriateness of the question to the point of closing the question. Why is one question OK and the other off topic?

Even consulting the FAQ, I find the question to be on-topic in the area of project management. The name of a game is an important aspect of publishing, which is an explicit component of project management.


It was closed for being off-topic because five members of the community determined it should be (it's possible not all of them voted for "off-topic" specifically, but that was the majority's choice). They are the only ones who can say why they voted the way they did.

For the record, I agree the question should be closed and consequently declined to add my vote to the reopen list. I don't think that "off topic" is necessarily the best close reason, but I don't really care as long as it's closed.

The issue of legal questions is not very clear-cut. I am of the opinion that the the only way to really answer most of them is to say "talk to a lawyer," which means anything asking for legal advice, especially regarding intellectual property laws (which are the majority of legal questions we seem to have here), should be closed as a duplicate pointing to some question with the answer "get a lawyer."

Intellectual property laws in particular are varied across the world and in many cases, particularly the US, very subtle. Your question is basically asking for an interpretation of the intellectual property laws (probably trademark ones) in your jurisdiction and that's really something you should be talking to a lawyer about. In that respect I can see how others may have voted for off-topic since it's really better suited for the hypothetical "intellectual property law StackExchange."

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    \$\begingroup\$ So why are the other legal questions quoted in my question not also closed? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMonkMN Dec 17 '12 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ They haven't had enough close votes. Maybe they will be now that your new question draws attention to them, because they are much, much older and in some cases existed before we had enough users with a high enough reputation to cast close votes. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Dec 17 '12 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the topic of talking to a lawyer, though, realistically that's not an option. This is just a 3-day project I put together for fun, and paying through the nose to answer such a simple question seems silly. So I figured maybe it makes sense to ask other game developers who have surely dealt with similar legal questions before. I don't need a legally sound answer, just the experience of others who may already have dealt with the question. Surely not everyone who has had a trivial legal question about a piece of software has hired a lawyer. In the absence of hypothetical forum, isn't here OK? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMonkMN Dec 17 '12 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lawyers can be surprisingly inexpensive and are generally willing to work with you to get you what you need without making you pay a lot. If you don't need a legally-sound answer it's almost not worth asking the question, since you don't care enough about the result to protect yourself from the ramifications (ignorance of the law is generally not a suitable defense) and because the question is still legal in nature and on an open forum and so others may stumble across it (and potentially be misled by an incorrect answer). \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Dec 17 '12 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ For simple throw-away projects or if you really think you can't find and talk to an IP lawyer, err on the side of caution: "if you have to ask, the answer is no." \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Dec 17 '12 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ See, that's the kind of answer I'm looking for to my question. Why can't that be discussed as a response to my original question? If it's because of the risk of incorrect answers making people legally liable, shouldn't we add a legal exclusion to the FAQ? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMonkMN Dec 17 '12 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the issue is less about making people legally liable, as there probably is some kind of clause for that already in the site terms of use. It's more about the danger of being wrong. If you aren't a lawyer, then you're speculating and not producing authoritative answers. Most of us game developers, even those of us who are professionals, know only enough about IP law to be dangerous to ourselves and others. Those of us who recognize that are keen to point out that a lawyer is a better option. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Dec 17 '12 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Due to the fact that so many legal questions do arise in game development, wouldn't it be nice if this were one of the places that it would be OK to ask them, perhaps with all the necessary disclaimers. Take for example, once again, the question I referred to in my question. The first answer was from a lawyer. That's really helpful. Why not invite such helpful discussion? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMonkMN Dec 17 '12 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a discussion forum though -- and for that matter nor is the comments thread, so if you want to keep talking about this you should probably join the chat. But in short, my take on that is "no, this shouldn't be the place for that kind of question." Beyond that it's up the community to decide. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Dec 17 '12 at 18:38

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