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Thread: Zelda Classic Legal Question

  1. #1
    Gibdo texasdex's Avatar
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    Verified Bug Zelda Classic Legal Question

    I have recently recieved an email from somebody asking whether ZC was legal. I occasionally get random emails about ZC. Anyways I thought I'd pose this question (and my answer to it) to the rest of the ZC community.

    --- ##########@aol.com wrote:

    Is the Zelda Classic program really legal, and do you know if Nintendo of America knows that this program exists out there? I'm told that it is not a ROM or a rip-off, but if this program is legal, why does it come with the 1st and 2nd quests for the original Legend of Zelda?

    Thanks

    Kevin
    My response was:
    I am not a lawyer, and this should not be considered legal advice (sorry, gotta cover my ass), but here is my understanding of the whole thing:

    From a legal prespective Zelda Classic is NOT perfectly legal. Strictly speaking, it infringes on the trademark "Zelda" and the copyrighted first and second quests. However, from what I have seen Nintendo has unoficially turned a blind eye to ZC.

    ZC is NOT a ROM, it is a full from-scratch clone of the original game, with many features added as well, and cloning a game engine without using the original code is perfectly legal.

    Therefore the game engine itself is perfectly legal to use and develop completely original quests for, but the original quests, strings, and graphics are copyrighted by Nintendo. Any other ripped graphics such as the Chrono-Trigger tileset, the BS-Zelda tileset, and the Warcraft and StarTropics tilesets that I have made, are copyrighted by their respective owners (e.g. the Warcraft graphics are copyrighted by Blizzard Entertainment).

    This sort of copying is done purely out of love for the original game, and because there is no profit involved and the games are very old companies tend not to care.

    The other legal issue that I am aware of is Trademark. "Zelda", "Link", "The Triforce", "Ganon", and possibly other phrases used in the game are trademarks of Nintendo. Trademarks are meant to guard a company's business from imitators, and ZC certainly is an imitator. To be completely legal in that respect AGN would have to remove all references of trademarked terms, especially "Zelda".

    However with over one million downloads of Zelda Classic 1.84 on downloads.com Nintendo cannot possibly be unaware of ZC. But Zelda Classic costs them nothing in lost sales, does not make AGN any money, and helps grow a devoted fan-base. I personally doubt they would bother doing anything against ZC.

    In short, Zelda Classic is more legal than a ROM that you could download. It's not perfectly free and clear, but I don't have any real reason to believe that Nintendo would go after the people who make it, let alone the people who use it.

    Regards

    Gordon
    I have not heard much on the issue of what Nintendo actually knows and has done about ZC, and I began wondering about it. I'm not paranoid, but I think it brings up an interesting and important question.

    I'M BAAACK!!

  2. #2
    Patra vegeta1215's Avatar
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    Re: Zelda Classic Legal Question

    I'm surprised you wrote such a lengthy reply to that guy.

    I think the easiest thing to do where someone asks a question like that is to repond with what's on the official ZC site, namely:


    Zelda Classic is a tribute to (what we think is) the greatest video game of all time: Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda. It has been developed into an exact replica of the NES version that we all know and love. Beyond that, Zelda Classic allows the development of new quests that can use either the traditional graphics or enhanced graphics, as well as new enemies, items, and challenges.

  3. #3
    Gibdo texasdex's Avatar
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    Re: Zelda Classic Legal Question

    That may be the easiest thing to do, but it wouldn't have actually answered his question. He asked quite specifically if it was legal or not, and that response doesn't remotely address the issue.

    The fact of the matter is that strictly speaking ZC isn't perfectly legal, and I could not in good conscience represent it as such.

    But don't think for a second I think ZC should be shut down. The law is not always clear-cut cases, not black and white, and I think that Nintendo has been wise in ignoring the ZC community. They have nothing to gain from it as ZC is not a commercial project, and the potential to lose many big fans and possible new fans.

    I'M BAAACK!!

  4. #4
    Powerlord
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    Re: Zelda Classic Legal Question

    Now that the big N has released the NES Classics GBA games, I could see them coming after ZC... although one would think that they would have already.

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    Death Knight MottZilla's Avatar
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    Re: Zelda Classic Legal Question

    The answer you gave was pretty much on par. The main sticky spots are the copyrighted graphics, and the names of things. If they were changed, (most of which is in quest files now anyway) ZC would be fine. Anyways, for people that want a straight answer to the question, just say yes. ZC is really a game engine. Almost all "The Legend of Zelda" things are in quest files, except the intro files. I still don't see why anyone is worried or concerned. Who wants to go after someone for making a supportive tribute to a 18 year old game?

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    Wizrobe C-Dawg's Avatar
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    Re: Zelda Classic Legal Question

    We've been over this on a pretty regular basis once every few months for the last two years, havn't we? In any event, you're all essentially right; ZC uses copyrighted content. What might ALSO be shown is that reverse engineering a game (yes, even just from eyeballing it and coding from scratch) ALSO infringes on someone's copyright. It'd be harder to argue that the engine is infringing than that the content is, but it's possible.

    That being said, yes, there's really no reason to come after ZC. AGN is not a deep pocket, and not making much of an impact on N's bottom line. May it always remain so.

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