Sponsored Feature Presented by Briffa IP Solicitors
by Chloé Vertigen https://www.briffa.com/key-practice-area/copyright/
Copyright is essential for video game developers. It protects their work alongside trademarks and other rights.
But What is Copyright?
Copyright is an unregistered intellectual property right that protects artistic works such as artwork, music, and literary works. It is an automatic right, so developers don’t need to do anything as it is in place as soon as they have created something substantial. So, as long as the game is original and doesn’t use someone else’s copyright, certain parts of a game will be automatically protected.
What Parts of the Game are Protected?
Any original text within the game will be protected by copyright, including source code. Outside the game, character scripts will also be protected, as well as any notes and pitch documents.
Game art, including concept art, will be copyright protected in the way it is expressed.
Any original piece of music, score or soundtrack within their game will be protected. If video games use ‘real’ music, they will require a licence with the owners of this music allowing them to use it. It is vital that any music they use is original or they have a licence agreement or assignment in place.
In-game videos, such as introduction and conclusion scenes, as well as other cut scenes, will gain copyright protection as films.
Character voice recordings will have copyright protection, for both the script and as a sound recording.
What Isn’t Covered?
Copyright will protect a lot of different work, but it does not protect ideas. It will only protect the way the ideas are expressed. This is why there are so many ‘copycat’ games that follow similar concepts.
Who Owns The Copyright?
The person who has drawn, drafted, created, developed, or produced the work will generally own the copyright, however, in some cases this isn’t true.
When an employee creates a piece of work as part of their employment, their employer will be granted the copyright. They can also assign their copyright to someone else, meaning they will no longer own the copyright protection. Assignments are used by contractors to ensure that the company they are working with has full control of the copyright.
When developing a video game, it is important to understand who owns the copyright. If more than one person works on the game, who are not employees, and who have not assigned their copyright, then they will end up having joint ownership. This will give each joint owner the right to exploit and use the copyright without the permission of the other joint owner. Ultimately, this makes it difficult to enforce their copyright if someone copies an aspect of their game.