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I may start working on a fan-site for a popular game franchise. I was wondering, if I were to attempt to match the images of the official website (such as borders/buttons/graphics), but not the layout, if it would be considered plagiarism.

Is there a difference between ripping the images off the official site (which seems like it would be plagiarism to me) and recreating something that looks very similar? Is the outcome the same?

Or, is it pretty much anything goes as long as I make sure there is a disclaimer for the game and where the images came from?

The site I make would have a tool that is not existing on the official site and possibly a forum area to discuss the tool.

If this question is in the wrong area please let me know where it should be and I can re-create it there.

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    It would be more of a copyright infringement than plagiarism. – Code Maverick Apr 25 '14 at 18:27
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    It's a fine line. Some companies do copyright their "look and feel", and you shouldn't just flat out copy as that's bad behavior. You certainly can be inspired by them and make your own works that may be similar but have their own distinct look and feel. – BadFeelingAboutThis Apr 25 '14 at 19:52
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    Unless you are explicitly imitating their branding elements (e.g. logo), you should be okay to use a similar design style if you're creating a fansite. This really depends on the context. As a fansite, you would only be considered as giving them a hat tip. If it's for something completely different / for a competitor's site, then it's a big no-no. – nightning Apr 25 '14 at 20:00
  • Anything goes...until you find a lawyer that disagrees with you. – DA01 Apr 25 '14 at 22:38
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    And yea, a fan site would typically be seen as innocuous and more of a fair-use situation. But in the end, it all depends on the company that owns the particular product you are a fan of and how litigious they may or may not be. – DA01 Apr 25 '14 at 22:41
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Depending on the assets, you essentially have two routes available to you:

  1. Do you have permission to use their materials? You'll want to either check the creator's website or contact them directly if that's possible. Sometimes this information will be found in their press materials sections, or site building kits (usually the doc is with the materials in this case). Game developers often have fansite kits that can be used. Always Credit your sources in these cases.

  2. If you cannot verify if you can or can't use the assets, you can do one of two things:

    A. Use them anyway, and hope that the creator either doesn't find you, or doesn't care enough to ask you to cease using the images. Again, always credit your sources. Always (e.g. Artwork/Images by Valve Software).

    B. Don't use them. This is the safer route when you don't know.

If there is no clear answer then you take a risk of possibly infringing upon the original creators rights, but I would surmise that if it's in the gaming industry that they'd have some fair use guidelines that could be found somewhere. It's in their best interest to allow limited usage of their materials.

That being said, the more you can get away from the creators original assets in building a site, the stronger and more unique your site's identity will be, and the less you'd have to worry about legalities.

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