Street Fighter and Copyright Law

I’m not sure where to put this, so I’m putting it here because there was a small discussion in the FGD thread on S-Kill getting a job with Capcom; just move this wherever if it’s in the wrong spot. The previous discussion was about whether stickmaking, Street Fighter videos, and putting music on SF vids constituted copyright infringement. I’d argued that stickmaking and SF vids were fair use and not copyright infringement and that putting copyrighted music on SF vids was probably not fair use. I’m a law student at a big law school in Washington DC emphasizing in copyright, technology, and internet law, and I just got out of speaking with my Copyright professor about this. Turns out I was right on some stuff and wrong on other stuff.

My thoughts on stickmaking:

My professor’s thoughts: He agreed that this is generally fair use, that the Sega case says doing this is generally fine. However, if there were any hacking of the controller chips, or if someone created new wires or otherwise changed how the controller actually functions (not just the input mechanisms, like buttons and stick, which are fine), the question gets a little murkier, and he didn’t really have a good answer. If, like in the 360 controller, there’s proprietary software involved, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) might forbid hacking the controller to make a new stick, although it might also be that this fits under the DMCA’s reverse engineering exception. So stickmaking is totally legal under normal circumstances like making a case and putting in the pcb of a PS2 controller or buying something like the T5 stick and just changing the buttons and joystick; anything else, like hacking an Xbox 360 pad or adding new functionality to the controller, well, nobody knows if that’s legal or not.

My thoughts on SF vids:

My prof on this: I was wrong, making SF videos probably is copyright infringement. Capcom doesn’t just own a copyright in the game as a game, it also holds a copyright in the audio/visual work involved, and SF vids are copies of that. In a case called Williams v Arctic (where the maker of the game Defender sued someone who ripped it off), the Third Circuit said that the repeating parts of a video game are all copyrightable; the court turned down the defendant’s position that the player was co-author of the game (“author” being a copyright way of saying creator; if players were co-authors, they’d have rights in the game as well) in that the player interpreted the game in a way that might be different every time. My professor rejected the argument that SF vids are fair use by saying that they copy Capcom’s audio/visual work completely, which means the nature is actually the same (audio/visual work just copied and put out as another audio/visual work) and the whole thing is taken, and that’s a no-go for fair use. So Capcom owns the rights in the audio/visual work aspect of Street Fighter and SF players can’t claim that they are co-authors, which means basically we’re screwed on SF vids. That said, my prof said that the chance anyone will get sued by Capcom is less than none because the videos only help popularize Capcom’s products, and suing them would put a dent in their popularity and sales.

My thoughts on music in SF vids:

My prof: Using copyrighted music on a video without authorization is copyright infringement, so not only could the RIAA sue you, but Capcom could too; you’re taking the audio aspect of Capcom’s audio/visual work in the Street Fighter game. Again, however, there’s no chance that Capcom would sue because suing would only hurt them, although the RIAA is another story.

All this in a nutshell:

Stickmaking is completely legal as long as you don’t hack the proprietary software in the 360 pad and don’t create new functionality for the stick, and that isn’t for sure illegal, it’s just an open question.

SF videos infringe Capcom’s rights in the video side of the audio/visual work aspect of Street Fighter, meaning that this is copyright infringement, but there’s basically no chance you’ll get sued because SF videos only help Capcom’s sales. Sorry, guys.

Using in-game music in SF videos is also copyright infringement because it infringes on Capcom’s rights in the audio side of their audio/visual work in Street Fighter, and using other copyrighted music in SF videos is equally infringing. There’s no chance you’ll get sued by Capcom for using their music in SF videos, but using RIAA-affiliated copyrighted music (which is just about all the music you’d think about using) might be risky because the RIAA has shown that it will seek legal action against people who infringe on its copyrights regardless of the circumstances. That said, there’s some (admittedly quite old) music out there that is now in the public domain (for anyone to use, the copyright has expired), and there ARE bands out there who make songs under a different kind of license called Creative Commons that lets people use their works in most ways, with limits like you have to give the original author credit in your video etc.

Interesting stuff. Makes me want to go back and read that Capcom v. Data East case (The Fighter’s History One) again. It’s really funny to see a judge write out the phrase “Tiger Knee.”

I’m basically uber-screwed, right? Written guide makers, the other works that I parody, the RIAA and Capcom will basically take turns on me Sir Bobby Blake styles if I ever released my videos in a semi-serious manner, yes?


But what about the SBO dvds? Are they sold with Capcom & co’s consent or not? Same about the EVO dvds.

I was basically going to post the same exact thing. UltraDavid, do you happen to know where we can find any information pertaining to the Capcom vs. Data East case? The only thing I remember from what the gaming mags reported was that the judge ruled that Capcom had no legal ground to stand on, as they couldn’t hold patent to the digitized versions of martial arts moves that have basically existed for centuries.

Thanks in advance, and great job providing the info.

Good read:tup:

Not really , tutorial vid actually help Capcom. Unless you use R.kelly or Britney song in your vid , RIAA cant touch you.

Do RIAA have right to video game music?

For stickmaking, I would be more concerned about potential patent infringement, especially if you’re a small business that makes the sticks and sells them, like MAS.

For SF videos, yeah, it would probably constitute infringement, at least because making such videos would probably be derivative works. However, the Japanese entertainment industry has been shown to be remarkably tolerant of copyright infringement (fan fiction doujins, Downtown vids on youtube, fansubbed anime, etc.). Despite that, I’m guessing that for a big Japanese event like SBO, they probably purchased an audio/visual license from Capcom. Maybe doing so would be a good idea for EVO.

Music is definitely a no-no. The RIAA sues 7 year old girls and dead people. Use music that’s in the public domain, or that isn’t held by the RIAA.

I actually work with Bill Kunkel, he’s been in the industry like forever and they called him as an expert witness for the case. I asked him about this trial a few weeks ago randomly.

From what he said, Capcom was trying to get a stranglehold on the entire fighting game genre by indeed claiming copyright on the character archetypes like “generic karate guy” and “sumo wrestler”. Other companies like Midway had fighting games out that technically were against their claim as well, but they had too much backing for Capcom to go after them. Data East was a relatively small fish, so they were (according to Bill) trying to use that case to muscle out a weaker company and set a precedent. Basically, they pointed out that though Fighter’s History is pretty similar, these character models have existed since forever in manga and such, so Capcom had no legal right to claim they invented them.


Haha that’s kinda funny in a rediculous “oh what will those legal departments think of next?” sort of way. Even though Capcom can’t claim ownership over “generic karate guy” they still have ownership over Ryu. Still, Capcom has no reason to sue us because there isn’t any money being made here. It’s just free marketing for them. I mean, if they wanted to go after somebody, they’d probably start with companies like GameTrailers.

Ha, that’s what I was getting at in my earlier post. If I really did sell tutorials, I’d prolly get curbstomped by pretty much everyone involved. Being successful is my downfall!


What about tournaments that sell DVD’s of the matches that were played?

Like Evo / Texas Showdown / ECC / etc?

I think that “intended use” offers some sort of protection when it comes to using audio/visuals from Capcom games. If for example the new work is intended to demonstrate advanced game strategies, VS matches, etc… AND is not in any way shape or form distributed in a way that would suggest that the author is trying to profit from the new work then I think this grey area may protect people who do that sort of stuff.

Think about, if we could not SHOW works in ANY way other than how it was originally meant to be shown or heard then we might as well turn off our TV’s and not watch the news. That practice is common everyday and I don’t ever recall seeing 2,000 lines of credits at the eand of each broadcast.

FYI, I know jack about copyright laws but my common sense is TT. :wink:


There are a variety of reasons why someone wouldn’t make money on a product, whether it was their intent or not, but that’s not nessecarily the basis for infringement.

You can not make money on an item, and still infringe on someone else’s right to control their brand, in profits, licensing and even in areas like brand image.

For instance, when the stickbuilding aspect was mentioned, i was just thinking of those sticks with SF artwork. For those sticks, even if you aren’t making money by selling them, your stepping into the territory of people like nuby who actually took the time to work with capcom to get the right to make official sticks and pads, eventually having their own business go under trying to do so. If they saw people doing the same thing as them for free and without asking anyone, i’m sure they might be upset.

In addiiton, I’m not sure that the whole story is being considered with stickbuilding. While it might be fair use to take a controller and make a stick out of it, and even to sell that single stick, a business based on it is another matter.

I would be surprised if any pad maker is going to stand for a new product based mostly on the functionality of their controller without compensation. If it was like that, every pad maker could just rip off the original ps2 pad and build a new shell around it instead of actually designing their own pcb and getting it made on their own.

As for combo videos and tournament matches i’m not sure, I thought there were exemptions for exhibitions and demonstrations. I remember more than one ‘unofficial’ guidebook out on the shelves, and i’m sure gamefaqs doesn’t get permission for all their guides.

what about all the street fighter hentai?

is that still ok?:sad:

Yep, back in the day there were all sorts of “Totally Unauthorized” game guides, I still have a few old-school SF2/MKII ones kicking around my bookshelf (some of you may remember my thread of classic Brady SF2 strats from a couple of months back). The difference was that while they did include screenshots from the game, they didn’t include any licensed artwork and weren’t endorsed by the game’s producers.

To my knowledge, there was never any legal action that resulted in the cease in production of these unofficial guides. A more likely explanation is that the officially endorsed guides with the officially endorsed shiny artwork on the cover sold a lot more copies, which eventually fazed out the unauthorized guides.

If you start selling tutorials i want royalties. There was that one time when you were like “Streets of Rage is awesome huh?” and i was like “Streets of Rage is awesome.” So basically, with those words, i created your entire editing concept and taught you how to play Twelve and turned you into the world-renowned internet celebrity that you are today. If that doesn’t earn me a spot in your entourage, then we can’t be friends anymore.

He treats you like a friend, but he treats me like I’m his mother, asking for more time on the videos he keeps pushing back.


Basically it’s all down to money… If anything would come of it everyone on this forum would lose their avatars by companies explosively exploiting their “copyright laws.” Only thing I would see a problem with is using music on combo videos… By puttting it in the video you’re giving people the oppertunity to listen to it for free, there for threatening their potential sales.

Yeah but even that’s not exactly true. You have all these random fighting game sound effects and voice clips. It kinda gets in the way of the music, so you can’t just play a combo video and minimize the player window so you can listen to the music.

Anyway i guess the bottom line is that the companies could come after us if they wanted to, but it’s not a practical concern. Kinda disappointing but it works.

First off- I don’t think you can be arrested, just sued.

Secondly, on the level of damages- they would have to prove a tangible damage I think. I can’t see how that damages them- you could easily point out they’re not selling anything in the US.

Also if capcom did this, the neg PR would be greater then the profit involved, so you’re pretty much safe.