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PAX East Panel – How The Law Affects Your Favorite Video Games



*Disclaimer* and the team are NOT lawyers and DO NOT provide legal advice. The following is a summarized take away from the panel “How The Law Affects Your Favorite Video Games” at PAX East 2018. Please consult an attorney for any legal advice.

Thursday morning of PAX East 2018 kicked off with a punch as an all-star team took the stage in the Condor Theater to discuss how the law affects your favorite video games. The panel was lead by Lead Community Manager at Twitch, Aureylian and featured Liz Surette (Attorney/Founder, Overclocked Legal), Michael Lee (Founding Partner, Morrison & Lee, LLP), and Chris Reid (Founding Partner, Chris Reid Law).

This panel covered a variety of topics and was a lot to digest. So we’re going to break it down with a few key points to help provide some insights from industry experts.

  • Let’s Play is copyright infringement.
    Yep, you heard us right on that one. It’s whether you get shut down or not is the question. A lot of game developers and companies enjoy this type of content for exposure. However, it is well within their right to shut you down with a DMCA. Most companies will only flex this power if you’re saying something racist on your stream or doing something that could really impact their brand. So stream responsibly.
  • Terms of Service (TOS) dictate what you can and can’t do with content.
    Read the TOS carefully for some of your favorite games you may want to stream. The TOS will typically outline what you can and can’t do with the content. For example, EA explicitly states within their TOS for The Sims that any content that is racist, sexually explicit or targeted harassment is within violation of thus said TOS. It additionally encourages streamers to also monetize their content as well, as long as it does not violate anything outlined in the TOS.
  • EULAs limit liability.
    Conduct and streaming rules in the EULA can help better manage a community and revoke licenses, if necessary. For example, if a game streamer already has several strikes against their channel from DMCAs and their channel gets shut down because of your DMCA against them, a strong and clear EULA can prevent the streamer from retaliating or suing your company and/or game developers.
  • Companies and developers can update their EULA at any time, BUT…
    If they do not make the EULA update known, it can weaken their enforcement within the court. It is crucial that anytime an EULA is updated, the company drives awareness to this change either through a company blog, email update, in-game notification, etc.
  • Content creators – Protect yourself!
    To help further develop your public brand and identity, it’s crucial to eventually make yourself an LLC. and get your trademarks in a row before you gain a following. People assume creative efforts are trademarked automatically — They’re not!
  • Protect yourself, your brand and your team.
    If you are creating content as a team, always enter an agreement with a contract. The minute money gets involved or things go south, it can get ugly real quick. You may think “Oh, so and so has been my friend for 10+ years, they would never do that…” — Well, newsflash. They could. Or you might be the one to turn on them. Save the friendship or relationship with a piece of paper defining the working relationship.
  • Game companies don’t owe you a refund for in-game purchases if you violate their EULA.
    This one should be self-explanatory but so many people raise a public stink after they lose everything for violating either the EULA or TOS. A games EULA should clearly state that if the end user does anything to violate the rules, that their license to use the games/services will be revoked and no refunds will be provided for any additional costs incurred in game. Need a better perspective on this? If you buy a ticket to a theme park and run around, screaming and breaking the rules — They reserve the right to kick you out. It even states that on the back of most tickets and during the check out process.
  • Domain snatching and cybersquatting is a big no-no.
    Heard a rumor about a new video game coming out and want to buy up the domain before the company can? Did Sony let their domain expire again?  While you may be thinking of snatching up these domains or squatting on them to hopefully cash in – Domain snatching and cybersquatting are both fine-able offenses and can cost you big time in the end.
  • Considering a career in law and want to break through in the gaming industry?
    The panel unanimously recommended looking into specializing in IP (Intellectual Property) Law, Corporate Law or even Contract Law. Overall, your career may be spent drafting contracts – but there’s a huge need for this among clients in the industry. So it’s great to specialize in one of these areas to land your dream job.

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