If copyright on a board game map exists, how long will it last? When does the map become public domain?

For example, there are plenty of Sokoban maps on-line. Some of them were created by Thinking Rabbit, some by Yoshio Murase. When will their copyright expire?

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about legal advice. – murgatroid99 Sep 17 '14 at 20:35

If the "board game map" is subject to copyright restrictions, then it is protected for 70 years in the USA.

As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

IANAL, this does not constitute legal advice. Puzzles cannot be protected by copyright, and neither can map layouts. A computer could probably create trillions of puzzles, many of them might be duplicates of those created by others. These puzzles follow algorithms for legal box pushing rules, so it is quite possible that these puzzles fall under mathematics which isn't subject to copyright protection. If you copy a complete collection of puzzles though, you might be in trouble. Copying individual puzzles from many different sources might constitute research. The Trivial Pursuit lawsuit might be of interest to you.

When you copy from one source, it’s called plagiarism; when you copy from many sources, it’s called research.

Worth's case was thrown out of court by Judge Wm Matthew Byrne, Jr. It never even came to trial. In 1987, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, declaring that Trivial Pursuit was “substantially different” from “Super Trivia”. The courts decided that the presentation of facts in an encyclopedia, where entries are listed alphabetically, was very different from the rewriting of those same facts as questions, and their division into categories randomly picked on a Trivial Pursuit card


Currently in the US its 90 to 120 years or life of the author plus 70. US lawmakers keep extending the copyright so that Mickey Mouse doesn't go into the public domain. So anything printed in your life time won't be available in the public domain for a long time if you live in the US. The copyright owners can release it earlier, but you'd have to contact the owner to find out if that's the case.

IANAL(I am not a lawyer, this is a layman's understanding of the law)

Someone else will have to elaborate on copyright laws in other countries.


In France, something drawn usually falls under the `droits d'auteur' (author rights) laws which protect one's creation 70 years after his death.

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