Michał Pękała
DLA Piper

Mind the law! Few legal issues to consider while making any video game.

Michal is an Associate, member of the Intellectual Property and Technology department at DLA Piper Wiater sp.k., specializing in legal aspects of Video Games, Privacy and New Technologies. In his day-to-day work, Michal advises video game developers, both AAA companies and indie studios. He also works with YouTuber’s publishing Let’s Play videos and other forms of fun-made content. Additionally, Michal assists in organizing funds for video game developers for their projects, both through public state funding, and private capital.

 

Speech abstract:

 

With the exception of few, video game developers typically are not aware of the law when it comes to creation of video games. Whether you like it or not, things like copyright law must be kept in mind while making a video game otherwise it may strike back during the process. This talk will focus on a few important legal aspects of creation of any video game, such as: licensing, good contracts, processing of personal data, trademarks, or copyright infringement. A handful of tips on what to remember, what to avoid and when to ask for professional help are included.
Audience will learn, among others, why employment agreement with a graphic designer may be better than a civil contract, what is the point of careful selection of fields of exploitation in license agreement, or what are the risks of non-compliance with data protection regulations in case of video games. The presentation will include case studies, such as Activision v. Noriega (Black Ops II), Lindsey Lohan v. Take-Two Interactive (GTA), or No Doubt v. Activision (Band Hero). A few ‘what if’s’ concerning major titles will also be subject of the analysis. Aspects discussed during the presentation are applicable to every video game and video game developer, ranging from an indie project to the AAA blockbuster.

Why the careful licensing of game components is important? For starters, imagine a company based in Poland, working on a big title licensed from one of the major franchise. In a need of a good character designer a studio reaches out to a freelancer from NY. The studio agrees on fees and other terms of cooperation. A freelancer delivers the product – a character depicting the main hero of the game. Later when a game is successful, a AAA studio offers the studio several millions USD for rights to the main character in order to create a spin-off, sequel, etc. Can the studio grant such right to a AAA studio? It depends whether the studio owned copyrights to the character from a freelancer or only licensed them. On what terms? Have the studio concluded any contract with the freelancer based in the USA in the first place? The studio should’ve thought about that in the very beginning, not when a AAA studio knocks on its door. Worst case scenario, the studio might not be able to license rights to its character or even make a sequel of its own game!

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