On 17 October 2013 WIPO (World Intellectual Property organization) released a multi jurisdictional study on the legal protection of video games.
Video games have become part of mass entertainment and represent a multi-billion industry. Denmark is seeing significant growth in turnover and new jobs in the industry, and consequently the legal issues of protecting the products is of increasing importance in order to ensure continuing expansion on a national and international basis.
As an example of the industry’s growing importance and standing, the US Supreme Court in 2011 put video games on a par with other traditional artistic media stating, “like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas – and even social messages – through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world).
The WIPO study was commissioned because: "video games present a number of questions and challenges in terms of copyright. The current landscape of the legal protection of video games appears extremely complex indeed. Although Article 2 of the Berne Convention provides a solid basis for eligibility for protection of video games by copyright, they are in fact complex works of authorship, potentially composed of multiple copyrighted works.
Modern video games contain at least two main parts:
- (i) audiovisual elements (including pictures, video recordings and sounds); and
- (ii) software, which technically manages the audiovisual elements and permits users to interact with the different elements of the game.
For some countries, video games are predominantly computer programs, due to the specific nature of the works and their dependency on software. Whereas in other jurisdictions, the complexity of video games implies that they are given a distributive classification. Finally, few countries consider that video games are essentially audiovisual works."
The WIPO study covers the following jurisdictions: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United States of America and Uruguay.
Further to comparing the classification of video games as to which kind of authorship works can apply for protection, the WIPO study contains an analysis of the main stakeholders – always more numerous with the complex evolution of video games – and their applicable regimes regarding compensation and transfer of rights.
The Study hopes to raise awareness of the necessity to fill the normative void for an adequate legal protection for video games: the conclusions invite for an international debate amongst the stakeholders and draw the attention to establishing a uniform legal regime beneficial for all the industry.