# Questions on the legal protection of games and their parts (assets, sounds, title)

we started new pirate game, and I just want to ask some questions about rights. So I am new in game dev, I guess there are a lot of answers, but I guess professionals can advise something for first steps.

So we started some things like:

1. concept arts
2. sounds
3. we are working on the name of the game (just use temp one for now)
4. we develop some models of ships and characters

I have question what's my step to protect everything I listed above. Do I need to protect everything separately? Do I need to register a game somewhere? Can I use my already made domain and subdomain for the game? Or do I need to register unique one domaine.

• Can you say more about what you're wanting to protect yourself from? I.e., people making clones, people using your media for their products, etc.? – Chris Mills-Price Nov 24 '15 at 23:48
• @ChrisMills-Price I am not sure what you mean, as I started I just want to protect some rights for my game. Let's say I will create all needed resources, characters, ships, game source code, game scenario, game levels and etc, but how can I indicate that I've created this game. Of course I have a team and all of us do different things as I listed in my question. So let's assume that once I released my game someone else also want to use my assets and how can I prevent it. – Matrosov Alexander Nov 25 '15 at 0:03
• @ChrisMills-Price do I need to worry about it? – Matrosov Alexander Nov 25 '15 at 0:03
• "Copyright MyGameCompany 2015" should be enough. As long as you don't steal anything. – Alexandre Vaillancourt Nov 25 '15 at 2:11
• @AlexandreVaillancourt that's the thing. In the US, something you create is protected even if you don't copyright it. But of course there are advantages for copyrighting, as I told in my answer. But in the end of the day, the most important is to scare of potential trouble to avoid the need of any further efforts. In that regard, "Copyright MyGameCompany 2015" is a good start if there is no further worries by the OP part – MAnd Nov 25 '15 at 2:16

## 2 Answers

First of all, I am not a lawyer and in this site questions about these issues have to be always taken as ideas, thoughts or experiences, never as technical advice.

Second, I see you are not from US and I have to tell you that what I am about to say is fairly based on the US laws.

So, that said, you don't need, but you can and you likely should copyright the specific parts of your game. Let's see.

we are working on the name of the game (just use temp one for now)

Game titles are usually not copyrightable, but they can be protected under trademarks. Those are different things. But yes, you should trademark your game title when possible.

Do I need to protect everything separately?

Kind of. Code is copyrighted similarly to literary works, although there is quite a debate on to which extent code can/should be patented. While art and sound are usually copyrighted as audiovisual.

Can I use my already made domain and subdomain for the game? Or do I need to register unique one domaine

If you are talking about your website, that's your choice. As far as my experience with that goes, your game doesn't even need to have a website, and it certainly doesn't need to have the same name as the game. You can have a website like www.mycompany.com/mygame. No problem with that. It's your choice, not a legal requirement.

Now, about your more general question about whether you should or not pursue legally protecting your game and its pieces, I think at some point you should. There is quite an interesting article on the NewMediaRights website, on copyright, trademarks and intelectual property for video-games: http://newmediarights.org/guide/legal/Video_Games_law_Copyright_Trademark_Intellectual_Property

As they say, "While you don’t need to have the work (ie your video game) registered to covered by copyright law, there are advantages to registration (see our guide to copyright law)".

So, what are these advantages? The most obvious are: first, it is much more effective in scaring people off trying to use your stuff without authorization. Second, it makes eventual legal battles easier to win. Third, it saves you the eventual legal battle part of proving you did create what you are saying you created. That saves time and money. Fourth, it is cheap, as already said in other answer. Among other things. The NewMediaRights has a very good guide for Copyright as well: http://www.newmediarights.org/frequently_asked_questions_about_copyright_law_book You will be particularly interested in the section "IV. Now that I have the copyright to something, what does this allow me to do?".

For a basic introduction to the questions related to copyright, trademark and etc, you can also try the Gamasutra article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3546/hey_thats_my_game_intellectual_.php?print=1

But of course, I don't want to mean you have to be over-concerned at the very beginning. I think that this is the kind of problem I start thinking of more when the project has developed quite a bit. After all, as I just said above, at least in the US and countries with which the US has treaties on these things, just by making something you already have a set of rights about it, even it you didn't copyright.

Still, if you made graphical or sound assets that, in case your project is eventually abandoned, you would still try profit on somehow, that's a stronger incentive for protecting them from the beginning. You would be surprised how often people take other's assets without permission even for professional-ish uses. Not to mention how many assets are put online as if they were copyright-free, when they are not.

• oh thanks guys, there are a lot information that you've provided. I will try to organize it in my brain =) – Matrosov Alexander Nov 25 '15 at 19:34

In short, "Register with the US Copyright Office, but otherwise don't worry." (Or whatever your national copyright organization happens to be.)

I expect others have more nuanced, more informed opinions on this, but here's my thoughts anyways. And of course:

None of this should be taken as legal advice - if you're truly concerned, seek the advice of a game-industry-savvy attorney.

First, let me start with some context about my situation:

• I create asset-light games, so I'm a low-value target for infringement.
• I make my assets or buy them cheaply, so I'm not attached to the art, music, sound, etc.
• Nothing of mine has been copied yet, AFAIK, so my attitude towards it is purely hypothetical.

Reasons/beliefs for the "Register copyright" stance:

• To defend yourself against other people registering infringing content against you. How awful would this be? (I can't decide if this is a real risk, or just a highly charged emotional one.)
• It's cheap (approx $55 right now, via online form). • It will give you a decent platform for making takedowns if you do decide they're worthwhile. • It takes some of the stress/overhead out of maintaining records. • You can pursue statutory damages and attorney's fees, if done within 3 months of publication. This may prove a significant deterrence to some infringers, since they may reasonably expect you to be more willing to take them to court. • Many countries have agreements to respect each others' copyright laws, so e.g. registration in the US extends over much (but not all!) of the globe. On that last point: While you have copyright automatically by creating a work (in the US, at least), it's not always easy to prove you made it. You have to have good evidence that your product existed prior to whatever the infringer claims their earliest possession of the work was. Personally, I use repos and online revision-controlled documents to keep track of this stuff, but I have no sense for whether that's adequate. It's just what I can afford to do. You could also register a trademark if you think your brand will be valuable. This is a bit more expensive (Google says$275), but protects you from a specific type infringement. E.g. it would be hugely profitable if someone were to ship an Angry Birds Endless Runner, if Rovio couldn't take it down.

Reasons/beliefs for the "Don't worry" stance:

• Everyone overestimates the risk of being stolen from, though it definitely happens. Given the number of products released every day, it's unlikely you'll be targeted.
• Detecting infringement is difficult. Players might help if you own your assets openly (have consistent art across your site/game, for example).
• Proving infringement can be difficult. Assets may have traveled through multiple transactions, each believing it valid, since someone intentionally stole your content. Can make enforcement a time-consuming, expensive chore.
• Even with a clear case, enforcement is apparently difficult, judging by the amount of obviously stolen content on Apple's app store. I expect it's even worse for stores with a lighter review process.
• Protecting your assets is a never-ending battle.

Given these factors, I elect to simply not care. As game developers, we have enough on our plates already, and I think the returns on involved protection efforts do not justify the costs.

Finally, you don't have to make yourself an easy target. Asset thieves are doing it to make money (whether directly, or by shortening and cheapening development cycles), so if you're able to cheaply make your content harder to steal (e.g. obfuscation), that may be worthwhile.

So yeah, that's the set of beliefs I work under. They might work for you, they might not. I try to judge every effort based on return on investment. I think most "protect your assets" efforts are driven by emotion rather than actual calculation of the benefits.

Hope this helps.

• oh thanks guys, there are a lot information that you've provided. I will try to organize it in my brain =) – Matrosov Alexander Nov 25 '15 at 19:34