Instead of soliciting the mailing list here, and getting a half-dozen redundant responses, I will post my questions here, so that future newbies can get the answers too. These questions apply to conventional copyrights and to creative commons.
- How soon should a game idea (work in progress) be copyrighted?
- In the US, it is copyrighted by default as soon as it is written down. See below.
- Can a game be changed by the designer, after the game has been copyrighted?
- Definitely. Version numbers are helpful, especially if the terms under which you are licensing your content change from version to version; see below.
- Does a designer have to file for a copyright, and where? Is it as simple as writing 'copyright...' on the rules, or somewhere in between? Is there an agency that must be notified of the copyright?
- Trademarks, registered trademarks, and patents have to be filed for, but copyright itself is automatic under US law, whether or not you put a copyright notice on your work. Proving the date and time that something was copyrighted is another matter; some used to recommend mailing a copy of your work to yourself and leaving the envelope sealed, to let the postmark serve as proof. But if you're really concerned about how to do it, get a good lawyer.
- Is a tribute to the Emperor due, as he is the posesser of Patents?
- Andy's Icehouse patents are on "methods of play," specifically on how to play IceTowers and the original Icehouse. If you directly borrow mechanics from either game, maybe you are infringing. I doubt Andy would make an issue of it unless your game was being published commercially elsewhere (and how likely is that?), but you'd have to ask Andy.
- Can a creative commons be changed into a more traditional copyright in the future?
- The convention thus far in the world of open source software, from which the Creative Commons project drew its inspiration, has been this: if you want to take an open-source project commercial and you are the copyright holder, you get to, but only on your new revision and all versions that follow. Any version that was published under open-source terms would remain available under open-source terms. The CC licenses might be different, though; it would take a full reading of the legal code to really know.
Please be patient with this Grasshopper, for he is young and curious. - Cerulean
I've moved your questions to the discussion page, since that way they don't make the article confusing. I'll try to address all of the points you ask about in the article, and the articles on copyright, trademark, and patents. -- Lambda