Since I’m a huge metalhead as well as an IP lawyer, a lot of people have been asking me what I think about Gene Simmons trying to register a particular hand gesture (which looks similar to the hand sign of the horns used in metal culture) as a trademark. If he gets his way, metal and non-metal artists alike would no longer be able to use that gesture–and arguably the horns themselves due to their similarity–from the stage or in pictures at public appearances. Having read his trademark application and having done some research, I’ve outlined below the reasons he won’t succeed in getting the trademark registered. Continue Reading ->
You and/or your teammates have worked your fingers to the bone and thrown your hearts and souls into developing your game. And now, because you’ve impressed a potential publisher thanks to your community recognition and/or during a successful pitch, they’ve offered to give you money and market/distribute your game. Congratulations! But wait. That very long, very complicated contract they just sent you potentially holds many traps for the unwary. If you have been offered a publishing contract for your game or are considering trying to get one, read on to learn about some very important contractual terms that you should consider before accepting. Continue Reading ->
Released in 2010 and 2012 to critical acclaim, Alan Wake by Remedy Entertainment has an excellent soundtrack which includes licensed music by David Bowie, Poets Of The Fall and others. Remedy announced over the weekend that the game was leaving Steam and Xbox Live because, as so often happens, the licenses they negotiated with the publishers of some of the songs are expiring. “War” by Poets Of The Fall is a particularly important part of the soundtrack—as are the other songs that play during the game’s episode endings. Grand Theft Auto is another game series that relies heavily on licensing pre-existing music, featuring a number of different radio stations representing particular genres in each game. A few of the licenses in San Andreas expired last year but unlike Alan Wake, the game was simply patched to remove those songs rather than taken off the market entirely. What do game developers need to know about situations like these, and how can they protect themselves? Read on to find my primer on music licensing and many of the things you should keep in mind when using pre-existing music in your game. (Although this post is being written with game studios in mind, these pointers can also apply to film or other contexts where a creator would be licensing music, artwork, portions of a book, or other copyrighted works. Owners of music that another party wishes to license will also find it helpful.) Continue Reading ->
Last week, The Game Awards named Skyrim mod Enderal the Best Fan Creation of 2016 after two of the four nominees were pulled from the awards. One of the projects whose nominations were rescinded was Pokemon Uranium, a fan-made Pokemon game many years in the making. The other was Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R), a project that infused more modern gameplay conventions into a remake of Metroid 2. At the heart of it all is legal action by Nintendo against the creators of those projects for copyright infringement. If you are making fan game or mod, you might be worried about what these high-profile developments mean for your work. Why are Enderal (a total conversion mod of Skyrim) and Brutal Doom 64 (an enhanced port of another fan project for the N64 iteration of Doom) allowed to be distributed and recognized while the other two are no longer available to download? To learn about the legal issues and how people who wish to make fan projects can navigate this delicate territory, read on. Continue Reading ->
Galaxy In Turmoil is a game in development by Frontwire Studios that heavily uses Star Wars assets owned by Disney. They have received a fair amount of media attention lately after their claim that Valve agreed to distribute GiT on Steam. Additionally, despite explicitly calling the game “the next installment in the Battlefront series” without a license to do so, they claim that what they’re doing is legal—allegedly according to their legal team. However, it would be perilous for other game studios to follow their example. Here’s why:
First off, some of the legal statements they make (again, supposedly coming from their legal team) are so inaccurate that I’m inclined to suspect it’s all a publicity stunt and/or trolling job. I’m also extremely skeptical that Valve reps would deal directly with them given how early in development the game is, as well as how young the studio is—blatant, unauthorized use of Disney’s IP notwithstanding. Their Florida LLC was registered just this past April, and their Youtube channel’s uploads date back to January.
My legal commentary below is not directed against the developers themselves, nor is it to be taken as legal advice. The purpose of this article is to educate game developers and any other interested readers on a business decision by Frontwire, as well as on comments the studio has made about the legality of GiT. The danger arising from those comments is that others might follow Frontwire’s example and give their assertions actual legal credence–possibly incurring consequences. Frontwire frequently misstates copyright law, as I will demonstrate below. Further, every studio’s situation is different—especially when dealing with the heavily fact-dependent area of law that is copyright infringement/fair use. Frontwire’s FAQ page and public comments should NOT be taken as legal advice, legal research, or a model for your own development or business practices.
A. The Relationship Between Copyright Infringement and Fair Use Continue Reading ->
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- 3 Reasons Gene Simmons’ Trademark Application Will Fail: A Metalhead Lawyer’s Take
- Thy Mighty Contract: What You Need To Know About Publishing Deals, Part 1
- Case Study: Alan Wake and Music Licensing Contracts
- Case Study: Pokemon Uranium and the Legal Issues of Fan Creations
- Case Study: Fair Use and Frontwire Studios’ Galaxy In Turmoil