Jan 31, 2016
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Let's say I wanted to make an animated adaptation of a retro video game and upload it to YouTube. Now, adaptation is a very broad term, so here are the specifications: this would be an animation, created mostly using the game's sprites, backgrounds and other graphics. As the name suggests, this would be an adaptation of the game's story, so it cannot be considered a parody. Of course, if voice acting was included in the game, it would not be used; new voices would be recorded. Not to mention, the script would probably be vastly different from the original one.
So, the question is: Would this be considered copyright infringement? Could it be considered a transformative work? Could the videos be monetized?

In some cases, I think it might be considered copyright infringement. In others, it might be near the boundaries of Fair Use. The games in question would be mostly from the 8 and 16-bit era. The rules seem to be a little more loose, when it comes to these games, at least that's the impression I got. In this case, the graphics would be used outside of their medium and in a different way, than they were originally used. And even if using said graphics could be risque, they could be altered to the point, where they don't entirely resemble the original ones. Also, other, custom graphics might be added, depending on what the story would require. There are still some issues, though. First, the fact that this would not be a parody. The work would take the story and characters seriously and will try to adapt them. On the other hand, retro games didn't have that much of a narrative or defined characters, so if I wanted to make an adaptation of, say, Contra for NES, the narrative, although sharing some similarities with the original, would still be vastly different. Even games with tighter plots like Chrono Trigger could have the dialogue rewritten. But would it still be considered illegal to make such a work, simply because it's using certain character names, even if it is stated at the beginning who they belong to? Again, could such videos be monetized?

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject, especially if you have experience, when it comes to legal stuff. I would like to make such adaptations, but I don't know whether I should spend as much time on them as I would on other videos that certainly could be monetized, or if I'm able to make such adaptations in the first place.