Copyright Infringement in Gaming: Protecting Your Assets

copyright infringement in gaming and web 3 and in need of web3 lawyer

Intellectual property rights are crucial for companies operating in the gaming industry. Games often involve substantial investments in software development, art, music, storylines, branding, and more. Unfortunately, infringement of these rights is expected. As web3 lawyers skilled in blockchain and digital assets, copyright infringement cases frequently arise from gaming clients. This article provides an overview of copyright protections, potential infringement issues, and proactive steps gaming companies can take to limit legal risks.

At Bull Blockchain Law, our experience with blockchain and cryptocurrency allows us to navigate the intricate legal complexities of your case. If you’d like more information, call us today at 215-695-5860.  

What Types of Assets Are Protected by Copyright Law?

Copyright law protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. This includes software code, visual art, music, stories, characters, etc. If your gaming company invests resources in creating these assets, copyright automatically applies once the works are fixed rather than existing only as ideas. 

Copyright Infringement Risks in Gaming

Gaming companies face copyright infringement issues from both internal and external threats. Internally, employees or contractors may reuse proprietary code, artwork, or other materials without permission for side projects. Externally, unfair competition from clone games using similar assets is ongoing. Copyright infringement also occurs when players modify games beyond allowed parameters or distribute unauthorized copies.

Proactively Protect Gaming Assets

While legal remedies exist for copyright infringement, prevention is the best policy. Below are proactive steps gaming companies can take:

  • Require strong IP assignment/work-for-hire agreements with employees and contractors transferring all rights to the company. Non-disclosure agreements are also essential.

  • Register key copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office to enable statutory damages in litigation. Prior registration also establishes prima facie evidence of validity.

  • Implement technical and legal access control protections for games through end-user licensing agreements and digital rights management controls.

  • Monitor significant gaming platforms, clone site aggregators, and torrent networks for unfair copying and illegal distributions. Send regular DMCA takedown requests as needed.

For highly valuable brands/characters, trademark registrations provide additional protection covering confusingly similar uses. 

5 Key Takeaways Protecting Gaming Copyright Assets

  1. Register key code, artwork, and other copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office to enable statutory damages.

  2. Have employees/contractors sign agreements transferring all rights to your company. 

  3. Monitor major platforms for potentially infringing clone titles or illegal distributions.

  4. Implement DRM controls paired with EULA restrictions to limit infringing player activities. 

  5. Send regular DMCA takedown requests securing the removal of identified infringements.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Does Copyright Law Cover?

The U.S. Copyright Act protects original works of authorship, including literary works, visual art, music, software, videos, characters, and more. This means code, artwork, sound effects, story elements, and other creative assets are covered for games. Copyright arises automatically once works are fixed in a tangible form and do not require registration. However, registering critical assets with the U.S. Copyright Office as early as possible is highly recommended.

  1. What Types of Uses Constitute Copyright Infringement? 

Copyright holders have exclusive rights controlling reproduction, distribution, public display, modification, and creation of derivative works. Any unauthorized uses infringing these rights constitute infringement, assuming no fair use or other exception applies. Using only small portions of a copyrighted asset without permission can lead to infringement claims. Defendants also face secondary liability for enabling/facilitating others’ infringement.

  1. What Are Statutory Damages Under Copyright Law?

If a copyright is registered before infringement occurs or within three months of first publication, statutory damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 per work infringed are available. Courts can also award up to $150,000 per work for willful violations. These preset ranges provide substantial leverage and compelling settlements, especially with multiple instances of infringement across many users/players.

  1. What Fair Use Exceptions Potentially Apply for Games?

Fair use is a narrow exception allowing unauthorized use of copyrighted materials for purposes like commentary, criticism, news reporting, or research/scholarship. However, most gaming-related activities do not qualify. While Let’s Play videos may argue fair use in some cases, copying code or artwork from a game to develop a clone title certainly does not meet the criteria. This is why it is wise to contact anexperienced blockchain lawyer.

  1. What DMCA Protections Exist Against Copyright Infringement? 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) offers essential tools to help copyright owners protect assets. By registering an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office and then providing contact information in materials, you can issue DMCA takedown requests to platforms hosting infringing content. Most major networks have procedures complying with valid DMCA notices. This provides an efficient avenue for securing the removal of infringing games, mods, streams, or other materials.

Why You Need A Web3 Lawyer 

Copyright issues touch nearly all aspects of the gaming industry as companies invest substantial resources in developing valuable intellectual property assets. Infringement threatens profitability while eroding incentives driving further innovation. By better understanding the protections available and proactively limiting risks, gaming entities can more safely reap returns from their investments in groundbreaking new experiences advancing the medium. With proper precautions guided by experienced legal advice, companies can continue pushing creative boundaries, going gaming for all.

By consulting legal counsel like Bull Blockchain Law from day one, customizing protection strategies to leverage NFTs’ benefits, monitoring vigilantly, and staying compliant, your startup’s inventions remain exclusive assets for changing the world. Don’t wait until damage happens - plan for success from the outset. Call us today at 215-695-5860.

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About Bull Blockchain Law

As lawyers, technologists, and entrepreneurs, the firm’s partners began their journey in the crypto industry by building and operating cryptocurrency mining machines and a private digital asset investment fund. They quickly realized that the industry was woefully underserved by legal professionals who grasped the impact blockchain technology would eventually have on the world. Bull Blockchain Law LLP was founded to support the growth of a new breed of technology. Today, the firm serves as counsel to clients of all sizes and an advocate for sound public policy. It remains one of the few law firms completely focused on the crypto industry.