/ March 23, 2011

Game On

Photo by Joo0ey

Games are definitely on our mind here at Fastcase. March Madness is in full swing, MLS opening day was just this past weekend, and the beginning of baseball season is within sight. While the NFL lockout and the beginning of the Barry Bonds trial may be the big legal hitters right now, there are other games to be enjoyed – like those in front of your TV, PC, and handheld of choice.

The videogame industry has been giving lawyers a lot to cheer about, especially as its mainstream popularity continues to grow. Mainstream acceptation of the pastime has grown through the introduction of devices like the Wii and DS from Nintendo and the Blu-Ray capacities of SONY’s Playstation 3. Who could forget the iPhone platform and the popularity of games like Angry Birds or Flight Control?

This is a multibillion dollar industy, American consumers have spent at least $15.4 billion on game content, according to estimates from market research group NPD. In comparison, movie box office revenues totaled $10.5 billion in 2010. As the industry continues to grow, so do its legal requirements. That is why on February 8 the Video Game Bar Association launched with a five-member board that includes in-house counsel and firm lawyers.

The association, which hopes to host continuing legal education seminars and networking events, has sent out membership invitations to over 100 lawyers, according to The National Law Journal. In an interview with Law Technology News Patrick Sweeney, head of Reed Smith’s video game practice, who helped launch the new bar association says that “Over the years, the number of people whose core practice is in the games business has grown significantly,” said “And there is no organization that allows us to get to know each other and share ideas. The Copyright Society is too broad. The California bar, or anything California-based, doesn’t necessarily fit, either. It goes beyond any territorial or broad practice area affiliation. We want something more specifically catered to us.” The group’s inaugural meeting was held on March 2 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Hopefully, a dedicated online site will be created relatively soon so that news and community issues can be shared.

For now, over at Video Game Law Blog there is a .pdf file that you can peruse that contains a list and brief summary of cases that the industry has been a part of for the last thirty years, from copyright infringement cases to first amendment rights. There is also a run down of ongoing legal action, such as the pending decision in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association. If you are interested in an area where technology, entertainment, copy right, and first amendment issues collide there are plenty of places to look. Two that we recommend are Gamasutra, a leading industry site and Game Politics, a sister site of the Entertainment Consumers Association.

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