IP Litigator Scrutinizes Videogame Art

December 3, 2009 -

Where does art inspired by videogames fall under the fair use doctrine? A U.S. Intellectual Property lawyer takes a look at just such a topic in an interesting entry on his blog.

Ben Manevitz centers his article on three pieces of art from Brock Davis, which show interpreted scenes from Dig Dug, Donkey Kong and Missile Command.

The four factors (for the U.S.) for determining fair use are:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted workas a whole;
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Manevitz argues that the art in question meets the criteria of points 1 and 4:

The fair use analysis is actually fairly straightforward. You've got a transformative use that will have no impact on the market for the games, or even the potential derivative market for the games. That's factors one and four in favor of fair use.

The author claims that the works do not meet the second factor however:

Admittedly, the game screen is a creative work, which puts factor 2 in the not-fair-use column and it could be argued that the amount taken is substantial - it would depend on the determination of what, exactly, constituted the work; is it the game overall or individual screens.

Manevitz goes on to examine possible trademark implications:

… Atari might be able to argue that a consumer seeing the paintings might be confused as to the source or - in this case the stronger argument - sponsorship of the paintings.

He concludes that game makers might be able to make an “objectively reasonable trademark infringement case against the artist,” before noting that the “saving grace” for the artist might be “the practical factors militating against the manufacturer's bringing suit, to wit, the negative publicity, the paucity of available damages, the relative age (value) of the marks allegedly infringed, etc.”

5 comments

In Congress, DMCA Reformer Lands Key Subcommittee Chair

January 9, 2009 -

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) has been picked to lead an important Congressional subcommittee, and that's good news for game consumers.

As MediaPost reports, Boucher will chair the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. From MediaPost:

As a longtime proponent of consumers' rights to lawfully copy films, books and other material, Boucher is considered a likely opponent of any entertainment industry efforts to restrict the Web. Among other measures, he is likely to oppose attempts to require Internet service providers to filter networks for pirated material.

Boucher also has tried to revamp the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to make it more consumer-friendly... Boucher's bill would have specified that the anti-circumvention rules do not apply in certain situations, such as when the purpose of getting around the restrictions was to access a work in order to criticize it or report about it...

In 2002, Boucher authored a strident column extolling the benefits of fair use... Boucher also supports net neutrality initiatives, as does President-elect Barack Obama.

In 2007 the Entertainment Consumers Association endorsed Rep. Boucher's fair use legislation, although the bill ultimately failed to pass.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics

3 comments

Spore + Porn = Sporn

July 31, 2008 -

Will Wright's Spore, due for a September 7th release, is one of most anticipated PC titles ever.

But, as CNN reports, some users of the Creature Creator utility, released last month, have built animals which are apparently intent on breeding. Or, at least coupling.

...Buried among the more wholesome attempts [at Spore creature creation] were two-legged dancing testicles, a "giant breast monster" and a four-legged, "phallic fornication machine," for starters...

 

For EA, the developer of "Spore," it's the downside to tapping into the booming user-generated content arena, which has made sites like YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook and Second Life so popular... Many of the popular user-generated content sites have faced similar challenges in trying to control obscene material...

 

The creatures are not just static. Users can create animated scenarios for the characters to engage in, some of which include sexually graphic acts.

When EA got word of the "Sporn" creations, it began working with YouTube to pull them down. Spore executive producer Lucy Bradshaw told CNN:

Whether it's modeling clay, dolls or crayons, a small number of people can be counted on to use it for something vulgar.

CNN also spoke to the "Spornmaster," a 37-year-old man who has created a number of reproductively equipped Sporn creatures:

I admit it is silly and juvenile, but I don't think there's anything perverted, vile or awful about it. If people find it offensive, they can simply not search for it online. No one is forcing anyone to see this content.

One Spore fan told CNN:

I consider this very similar to child pornography, at least to the extent of distributing the material to children.

GP: Buzzfeed has additional NSFW links...

71 comments

ESA Annual Report: Game Industry Policy to "Push Back" Against Fair Use

July 31, 2008 -

The ESA's 2008 Annual Report indicates that the video game industry hopes to uphold the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) against critics who claim that it restricts Fair Use of copyrighted material.

Based on the following passage from the report, the industry's position seems to be that gamers can create user-generated content only to the extent that in-game tools allow them to do so:

The interplay Between Fair Use and Digital Rights Management User generated content (UGC) is a high-profile policy issue in the copyright community, sparked by the phenomenal success of social networking sites like YouTube.

 

Influential policy papers from the U.K. IP Office and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) cite UGC as a tremendous social benefit of the Internet and call upon policymakers to tweak current legal regimes to better accommodate UGC. This issue has captured the imagination of critics of the current U.S. copyright system, who argue that Digital Rights Management restrictions confound legitimate fair use.

 

ESA IP Policy staff is bolstering its ability to push back against this assertion. In discussions with domestic and foreign IP officials and the OECD, ESA emphasized the rich and varied UGC-features currently incorporated into DRM-protected games.
 

 

 
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E. Zachary KnightI don't see why it would be that difficult to maintain one. Especially for a news outlet with multiple people on the payroll.09/23/2014 - 9:37am
Matthew Wilsonthey can, but will they? more inportantly will the traditional sites be willing to do the extra work to maintain the list?09/23/2014 - 9:02am
E. Zachary KnightSo how will it reduce the power of the traditional games press? They can create curated stores too.09/23/2014 - 8:39am
Matthew WilsonI think its a good thing, but it does mean traditional games press will have less power than ever before. To be fair most of the gaming press were never big on pc gaming anyways.09/23/2014 - 8:33am
E. Zachary KnightMatthew, is that a bad or good thing?09/23/2014 - 7:43am
MechaTama31When you say "youtuber", I picture some sort of customizable potato...09/22/2014 - 10:48pm
Matthew Wilsonthis change will only give youtubers more power.09/22/2014 - 9:54pm
prh99Steam has added a curator system. You can follow your favorites and see their recommendations http://store.steampowered.com/curators/09/22/2014 - 9:07pm
MaskedPixelantePlus there's the whole "we don't use accounts" thing that means if you lose your 3DS and have to get a new one, you have to deal with Nintendo customer service to get your downloads back instead of, you know, logging in and downloading them.09/22/2014 - 8:39pm
MonteIndeed. Their wallet system, the lack of sales, applying tax, the lack of price cuts, the eshop is pretty terrible. Only use it for indie games.09/22/2014 - 8:29pm
Andrew EisenThat's the one I'm eyeballing. Really dug the demo. Didn't care as much for EOIV though.09/22/2014 - 8:19pm
MaskedPixelanteOoh, an Atlus sale, it must be a day that ends in "y". I'd much rather get physical 3DS games because of Nintendo's outdated digital distribution policies, but EOU is near impossible to find anywhere nowadays... conflicted.09/22/2014 - 7:48pm
Andrew EisenOooh, Atlus sale in the 3DS eShop. I might have to bust open my piggy bank. http://www.siliconera.com/2014/09/22/shin-megami-tensei-iv-atlus-games-sale/09/22/2014 - 7:21pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.pcgamer.com/2014/09/23/steam-update/ steam finally adds content Curation. I like that the user can pick which peoples recommendations they want to see.09/22/2014 - 7:16pm
MaskedPixelanteNintendo put three dual-gendered characters in Smash Bros 4.09/22/2014 - 7:13pm
Andrew EisenWhat did Nintendo do thrice in one game?09/22/2014 - 6:48pm
MaskedPixelanteYou know it's a bogus defense when Nintendo of all companies does it THREE TIMES in one game.09/22/2014 - 6:29pm
E. Zachary KnightIt is stupid that they went with the "It would be too much work to add a woman assassin" defense rather than just being honest and admiting they didn't think about it until it was brought up.09/22/2014 - 6:06pm
E. Zachary KnightYeah, this is a different game and it is not out of the ordinary for them. THey did the same for the pirate one.09/22/2014 - 6:05pm
MaskedPixelanteTurns out it's less "impossible", more "part of the season pass, but only in an exclusive game that's separate from ACU proper".09/22/2014 - 6:01pm
 

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