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Video game law, like the larger category of “entertainment law” that contains it, is really a bunch of different types of law combined together. The following types of law are found under the umbrella of video game law:
Contrast this with something like real estate law, which basically encompasses all of real estate, as you’d expect.
Because there are so many types of law that are involved in video games, it’s obviously important to have a wide degree of legal knowledge! Working with something fun and cool like video games, however, makes learning about these different types of law very exciting in context.
I like to think of video game law as being every bit of lawyering that touches on a video game throughout its lifetime, from start to finish.
Video games have ideas, they have creative expression, they have sounds, music, artwork, text, and all kinds of other things going into them. There’s also the human element to games – there are contracts with employees and contractors, and deals to be made (and put into writing) between developers, publishers, and any number of other parties that are involved in the game.
A video game attorney also needs to have knowledge about the various regulations that govern video games – whether it’s privacy law (dealing with taking players’ personal information), game ratings, or other government regulations.
Having some experience in all of these areas of the law isn’t enough – you need to have experience and knowledge of the video game industry and the aspects of video game law that are relevant to a game developer’s specific legal issues. Anticipating potential problems and preventing them from happening is one of the main jobs of a video game attorney.
While game developers face many of the same issues that other businesses deal with, there are many specific needs that pop up in game development.
Some of the most common issues deal with starting and running a business, protecting valuable intellectual property, and getting the right contracts in place with employees and business partners. Getting the right protection in these areas goes a long way toward avoiding many common pitfalls in game development.
Many video game developers struggle with the decision of whether to form a separate business entity, and which type of entity to form (LLC or corporation). A video game attorney with experience helping small and medium-sized developers can help them make this decision, by assessing their goals and business plan.
Similarly, developers are often confused about the different types of protection available for intellectual property. The software, art, music, and sound that goes into a game are extremely valuable – in many cases the entire value of the company is in that intellectual property. If a developer fails to properly own, protect, and enforce that intellectual property, their business could lose all of its worth. A video game lawyer is just the type of professional to help with this.
Lastly, game developers need to be sure that contracts are in place with their employees and contractors, as well as publishers and other service providers. If the deals aren’t in writing, it’s not going to be clear who owns what, who gets paid what, and how to get out of a bad contract.
All of these questions and more can be answered by an experienced video game attorney.
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