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COPYRIGHT IN THE GAMING INDUSTRY

Introduction

The gaming business is currently recognized as a critical economic sector for growth in India. Tens of thousands of new jobs will be created by this new sector. Several gaming businesses are likely to finalize employment plans to sustain development in the coming years. Its value has risen consistently over the previous five years and is predicted to quadruple to $3.9 billion by 2025. Because of its connection to culture, technological advancement, and entertainment, the gaming industry is acknowledged as one of the most exciting areas in technology. Historically, games were originally launched in the US market; however, it is evolving, and worldwide releases are becoming increasingly regular. A team of project managers is normally responsible for seeing the game through to completion, rollout, and follow-up in bigger development businesses. As new content is released regularly, whether as bug patches or premium paid-for expansions to the original game, the post-launch period is becoming increasingly crucial. The computer games industry is a global one that necessitates the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in numerous jurisdictions. To encourage innovation, it is necessary to preserve intellectual property. If IP protections were not present, businesses and individuals would not reap the full benefits of their inventions, and they would devote less time to development and research. Strong intellectual property rights enable consumers to make informed decisions about the safety, dependability, and effectiveness of their purchases. In today’s world, intellectual property rights have a huge influence on international and indigenous trade.

Copyright Issues

According to the Oxford dictionary, “a game played by electronically manipulating graphics created by a computer programme on a monitor or other display” is called a video game. Copyright, on the other hand, simply refers to the exclusive right that an intellectual property owner enjoys It protects the creator’s work from illegal copying or use.

The Copyright Act does not specifically cover video games; nevertheless, as stipulated in Section 14 of the Act, separate work heads such as literary, artistic, musical, cinematograph film, and so on can be utilized to protect different parts of a video game.

The only respite for video game developers and publishers is that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (“MEITY”) recognizes video game copyright protection under the heading of “multimedia products[1].” A video game is made of several elements that work together to generate the experience we get as users. All of the elements are in the form of software code, which converts into the user interface of a game. Although software coding is already protected by copyright, the final work in a video game, which can be the story line or the script of a game, or the characters of the game , and elements of the code individually, can also be protected by copyright.

As a result, copyright protection can be granted for various types of work. MEITY has explicitly stated that the animation/video elements of video games are eligible for protection under the cinematograph film segment[2]. A video game is a complicated superstructure of variables (music, images, hardware, software, codes, and characters). As a result, creating a video game as a single thing is difficult. This area encompasses a wide variety of genres. The constitutional components of the game will differ according to the game type, or more particularly, the individual game.

Furthermore, a discussion emerged about whether video games are protected under Section 2 (f) of the Act, which covers visual recordings, because video games are the representations of audio-video recordings that players can/will control. By pressing various combinations of buttons on the controller, the characters in the games perform previously installed/recorded activities. As a result of judicial interpretation of the Act, video games may be classified as cinematographic films. Cinematographic film is defined as any work of visual recording that includes a sound recording that is accompanied by such visual recording in Section 2 (f) of the Indian Copyright Act, and The term “cinematograph” refers to any work created by a technique similar to cinematography, including video films.

Video games, unlike movies, are not subject to legal categorization or restriction. Only modifications in business operations, depending on unique technicalities in each situation, give video games a legal classification. Because it is new and there is no precedent, it is questionable if video games can be considered cinematographic works. The creation of derivative works such as cheat tools and modifications is a growing challenge for video game producers and publishers. A derivative work is one that is based on or developed from one or more preexisting works and is considered an infringement of copyright.

Another area of worry has been internet video game broadcasting. Because of the arrival of sites like YouTube Gaming and Twitch, the practice has grown in popularity. Although live broadcasting is considered a copyright violation, publishers often accept such actions since they promote game popularity and sales.

The following are the major stakeholders with a stake in a video game’s copyright subject matter:

  1. Programmer : the computer programmer who writes the game’s code
  2. Development team: The Team is made up of the whole primary element developer and is in charge of creating the many parts of a game from which the final outcome may be determined. Every artist, audio designer, level designer, technical designer, scriptwriter, content designer, and test analyst is included.
  • Producer: The role of a producer is the same as that of a film director. He manages and controls the tasks of the development team, as well as the required money and quality maintenance.
  1. Publisher: A firm that has obtained distribution rights for video games that it has produced or for which it has hired a development team.

Case laws

No case law in India expressly tackles the issues of copyrights in video games. Due to a dearth of case law on the issue, it appears that using copyright laws is the only proper sort of protection available, and this has been the industry’s business approach.

NRI Film Production Associates (P) Ltd. vs. Twentieth Century Fox Films Corporation & Anr[3], fundamentally important parts could not be protected and no comprehensive protection was available, the learned court decided that video games may be provided reasonable and practical protection.

The sole significant judgment on copyright in video games in India was in the case of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd. v. Harmeet Singh[4]. The Delhi High Court imposed an interim injunction against the defendants for violation of copyright under Section 65A of the Act for overcoming a technological protection system to allow pirated games and selling pirated games without the appropriate license. The court rejected the copyright claim in Atari, Inc. v. Amusement World, Inc [5], of the first video game cases to deal with the idea/expression dichotomy notion, asserting that particular kinds of expression are intimately associated with the ideas of certain categories of video games.

Conclusion

Based on the foregoing research on the importance of copyright in the gaming business, it can be claimed that copyright, among other intellectual property rights, protects the highest number of works linked to the gaming industry and is complicated and necessary protection for games. A game is a creative and interactive output that is elegantly transformed into a technologically interactive way for consumers/players. The importance of copyright is becoming increasingly important as the game industry evolves in terms of playable platforms and improved user experience. Although it was not directly addressed in this article, India lacks clear gaming rules and is regulated by gaming industry business practices. This just underscores the need for copyright laws in gaming. The now-mature gaming business is generally self-correcting, and it is a key pillar of the entertainment sector as a whole. Developers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect their investments. While the existing legal framework is not without flaws, it does improve access to information, resources, money, and enforcement capabilities. In India, intellectual property rights are still in their infancy, with jurists and legal experts leaving many untouched pages when it comes to IP and its protections. Lacunas or grey spaces are the names given to such blank pages (aspects still to be explored).

However, video games and their protection have become victims of such intellectual property grey areas. The Indian intellectual property laws are incapable of providing video games with holistic (single-unit) protection, putting this rapidly rising sector and its charioteers in anguish. Following a careful and fair examination of the previous study, it is clear that current legislation in India, as well as throughout the world, is inflexible and incapable of tolerating such a complicated merger It would not be wrong to claim that the intellectual property rules implemented in India are at the same stage of growth and should be reviewed as time passes.

An amendment that makes preexisting legislation more flexible takes time and is open to a broader interpretation; the current law is rigid owing to the early use of terms and definitions interpreted by old-fashioned politicians; The new legislation’s legislator should do the same. Because of India’s intellectual property laws, video games can be appropriately protected to keep the industry functioning until a new and acceptable set of rules is legally enacted. The lack of specialized legislation for the regulation of such a rapidly developing industry opens the door to malpractice and a lack of protection for developers as well as the country’s economic progress and stability.

Author(s) Name: Shreya Patel (The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Faculty of Law)

References:

[1]  Vrinda Sehgal, ‘Status of Copyright Protection for video games in India’ (Lexology – 31 December 2021 ) < Status of copyright protection for video games in India – Lexology > accessed on 8 June 2022.

[2]  Yash Raj, ‘ The Lacuna in the Indian copyright law vis-à-vis video games’ (NLUJ Law Review Journal –  June 3 2020 ) <The lacuna in the Indian copyright law vis-a-vis video games – NLUJ Law Review> accessed on 8 June 2022.

[3]   NRI Film Production Associates (P) Ltd. v. Twentieth Century Fox Films Corporation & Anr, ILR 2004 KAR 4530

[4]  Sony Computer Entertainment Europe v Harmeet Singh (2012) CS (OS) No. 1725/2012

[5]  Atari. Inc. v Amusement world Inc. [1981] 547 F. Supp.  22 (D. Md. 1981)