Re: Gnometris copyright/trademarks

On Thu, 28 Dec 2006, Jason D. Clinton wrote:

> Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 17:15:22 -0600
> From: Jason D. Clinton <me jasonclinton com>
> To: games-list gnome org
> Subject: Re: Gnometris copyright/trademarks
> On Thursday 28 December 2006 16:13, Andreas Røsdal wrote:
> > Gnometris has potential copyright/trademark problems, and is therefore not
> > included in some Linux distributions, such as Fedora.
> >
> > I've created a bugreport here, with links to bugreports at Redhat:
> >
> >
> > - What are the specific copyright and trademark problems?
> The first bug report you linked to has Havoc stating that all Tetris clones
> are illegal. That's a pretty broad and incredible claim. So, if he has some
> evidence to back up that statement, that would be nice to have.

I've read quite a bit on this subject, and similar issues.

It seems to me that *ANY* legal threat has a chilling effect on Open
Source projects since most developers do not care to fight any legal
battles at all (with the possible exception of GPL violations.  Even
then projects like Media Player Classic do not have the necessary
resources to follow up on the issue).

I can entirely understand the lawyers at RedHat removing anything with
even the potential to result in litagation, and the owners of the Tetris
trademark do seem to have quite a reputation for litigiousness.  However
they have not flat out said as much and failed to give specific reasons
which we could correct for, and the bug report points out the counter
example of KDE Games.  The use of the suffix "tris" seems like a bit of
stretch.  (A quick search through the .po file shows the source files do
use the word tetris but none of the in game strings mention it at all.)

Much like the threats SCO made the hard part will be figuring out what if
any is the actual problem.  Perhaps a polite letter to the lawyers at
RedHat is all that is needed?

> The second bug report is correct that the "look and feel" or the rules
> of a particular game cannot be copyrighted to such an extent as to
> prevent someone from "reverse engineering" their own implementation. So
> we don't violate any copyright law.
> IMO, RedHat is just using these reasons to remove a rather unsightly
> game from their GNOME distribution. We should make Gnometris prettier
> and more exciting. Then they'll put it back in.

Unlike the KDE tetris like game the Gnome version lacks multiplayer, even
two player on the same machine.  It doesn't have any of the more unusual
tetris features (like for example the insanely hard Bastet, which gives
you the absolute worst possible pieces).

> > - What can be done to circumvent these problems, by making gnometris a
> > more unique game, rather than yet another "tetris clone"?

There have been so many variations on the game it would be tough finding a
unique feature but it might be prudent (but a lot less fun) to avoid some
of the features from the games like the original Tetris and Tetris Worlds

> "Tetris" is the trademark we are ostensibly violating. Though I don't think
> it's required, all we really can do is to rename Gnometris to something else.

I do love tetris, a whole lot, but if gnometris is on the bubble and my
recollection of harsh comments on the maintainability of the code is
correct then maybe this discussion isn't worth having?

How close was Gnometris to being on the list for removal?


Alan Horkan

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