Indie PC horror game Faceless, which is now in the #1 spot on Steam Greenlight, will probably get passed over yet again this month when Valve announces the next batch of games to get the Greenlight OK. Why? Apparently its antagonist, a meme, is copyrighted.
Based on the ‘Slender Man’ legend originating in the Something Awful forums circa 2006, Faceless a Source Engine mod, is bogged down by the issue of copyright ownership: is Slender Man in the public domain, or is he copyright the original author of the legend?
We were happy finding out that we were the most popular game on the service. However, we feel a little bit screwed over as we have attained the highest rank, and yet some really arguable games have gotten in. Especially The Intruder, which is essentially the same premise of our game and from what I’ve heard uses the Slender Man mythos as well. We’re a little peeved about the whole situation, but we’re still trucking along.
The issue is, apparently, a little more complex than simply getting the permission of the original creator, as Slender Man actually has an option holder. Though they are in negotiations, the option holder hasn’t been in contact with Ross for a week, and Ross is worried. Panicking after a week is possibly a little premature, in business these things can take time, but his worry is understandable. But the issue is more than just the rights to Slender Man, and raises questions such as when does a meme become public domain, or does it ever? How should such things be handled? The Nyan cat, for example, has been referenced in a variety of games in various ways: does that count as copyright infringement?
But, Ross says, if things don’t work out with the options holder then not all is list: he will simply release the game on ModDB. Faceless is set for a full PC release in March of next year.