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Copyright & Games: Is the Law Changing?

Copyright & Games: Is the Law Changing?

By on Sep 16, 2014 in Announcements, Boardgames, Fiction, RPGs, Videogames | 0 comments

Short Answer: Nope   Over the last year or so I’ve seen a number of people reacting to a few intellectual property cases in the videogame world with interest. Often the gut reaction is to condemn one company or another, sometimes taking aim at both for different reason, and every so often there are folks who wonder aloud if this is going to be the case which changes the general rule that games are not protected under copyright law. The short answer in pretty much every instance is that, no, games are not going to suddenly slide under that umbrella. Why? Because Section 102 of the Copyright Act says that the law protects: “…original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” And goes on in 102(b) to specifically exclude: “…any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is describe, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such a work.” Games are generally pretty bound up in and defined by the elements listed above, which means that while the language describing rules, the art, or the background fiction might all be original expressions you can protect under copyright law there is no room for simple ideas or what the courts might describe as mere functional elements. That said? If you want to know more, read on.   Long Answer: No, But…   Well the law is always changing, because court decisions are part of the law, and in this arena there have been a large number of decisions over the past few decades. There is a recent case that highlights how the line between the protectable expression of an idea and a functional procedure may not be as clear as people would like it to be. In DaVinci Editrice S.R.L. v.  ZiKo Games, LLC, et al. the federal judge on the case recently issued an initial opinion in response to various motions by the parties, and in crafting her opinion Judge Rosenthal draws on a large body of existing case law to argue about where system crosses over with original expression. Some...

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Street Fighter 4: Latest to Marry Two Types of Gaming

Street Fighter 4: Latest to Marry Two Types of Gaming

By on Feb 27, 2014 in News, Videogames | 0 comments

“Gaming,” at least until fairly recently, has meant something very different to the general public than it does to people who play video- or tabletop games. With the explosion of the videogame market in the last decade that’s changing, but the association between the words “gaming” and “gambling.” And what does this have to do with Street Fighter? It was recently announced (Polygon’s brief article being a great introduction to the subject) by Capcom and Virgin Gaming that the two companies would be teaming up to provide a money match service for Street Fighter 4. This idea isn’t new to Virgin Gaming, as its business model is built around facilitating just that sort of exchange between online players, or to videogame players in general (that link explaining what exactly a “money match” is connects to a Super Smash Brothers wiki). If you’re not interested in following a link, money matches are exactly what they sound like; competitive matches in which a wager has been placed on the outcome. And if you’re not asking “wait, is that legal?” you are either already bored with this post or more on top of online gambling regulations that many. The law can be pretty confusing on the issue (and that’s without getting into the Federal Wire Act); many places online will tell you that games of skill are fully protected while games of chances are not, but in August 2013 a judge in the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals held that poker was a game of skill even while agreeing the defendant could be prosecuted under the Illegal Gambling Business Act. And then, just days ago, the Supreme Court refused to hear the defendant’s final appeal. So how are there so many skill-based gaming sites out there? Well, part of that relies on the fact that states have the freedom to legislate various types of events that have entry fees or prizes and to determine if these count as gambli ng. Every state is different, and it’s for this reason that many sites offering things like money matches will explicitly exclude states like Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee (it’s worth noting that the site Skillz also excludes Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, South Carolina,...

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