Gaming Companies Aspire and Struggle to Enter Online Gambling

In 2012, the global gambling market was estimated to be worth $417 billion.  According to H2 Gambling Capital, only 8.1% of that $417b came from online or interactive gambling.[1]  In light of those numbers, the opportunity for enormous revenue growth by gaming companies via online gambling is obvious and has not gone unnoticed.  A prime example of a gaming company’s attempt and struggle to capture their share of the gambling market is Zynga.

But there is hope.

The recent ruling in Spry Fox, LLC v. LOLApps, Inc., shows the legal theory surrounding game copyright may be slowly expanding in a way that offers developers more protection for more parts of their work.[2]  Spry Fox is the maker of Triple Town, a popular match-three/village-building game. They are suing 6waves Lolapps, which cranked out the extremely similar Yeti Town after backing out of negotiations to make an iOS Triple Town port.[3] The games are practically identical from a basic gameplay and progression perspective, right down to the prices of analogous items in the in-game stores and similar language in explanatory dialogue boxes.[4] Yeti Town‘s main innovation seems to be small cosmetic differences—the enemy characters are changed from bears to yetis, the graphics are rendered in 3D polygons rather than 2D sprites, etc.

Image

http://www.edge-online.com/features/opinion-tale-two-towns/

Although Spry Fox cannot copyright the basic rules and idea of Triple Town, the court noted that Spry Fox can claim copyright protection for things like “plot, theme, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, and character” (the court compared games to movie screenplays in this regard. And while 6waves’ Yeti Town didn’t precisely copy any of these elements from Triple Town, the court found the similarities in these areas were great enough to let the case go forward. The court noted: “A writer who appropriates the plot of Gone with the Wind cannot avoid copyright infringement by naming its male protagonist “Brett Cutler” and making him an Alaskan gold miner instead of a southern gentleman. The differences between Triple Town and Yeti Town are more meaningful, but it is at least plausible that they are insufficient to overcome the similarities.”[5]

So how does this impact the digital world? Hopefully, video game copyright owners will soon receive more protection against copycat developers. Since courts seem to be getting more familiar with disputes involving video games. This was not the case in 2007. Then the big question was: What happens when one avatar tries to sue another avatar for copyright infringement in an actual court? Kevin Alderman, known in Second Life as Stroker Serpentine, one of SL’s leading entrepreneurs tried to do just that. He believed Volkov Catteneo Catteno was selling unauthorized copies of his SexGen bed, a piece of furniture with special embedded animations that enable players to more or less recreate an adult film with their avatars.[6] Alderman sold his version for the L$ equivalent of USD$45, while Catteno sold his alleged knockoff for a third that price, undercutting him. Alderman threatened to sue, but he had one small issue: He didn’t know who to sue, since he didn’t know the real life identity of the person behind the avatar. Maybe he would have better luck in today’s courts.

How does this affect Machinima production? I will admit, yesterday I’d never heard of machinima. Even after reading the materials, I was still clueless. Now, after watching a few videos on machinima.com, I understand the concept. Machinima has become increasingly popular, not just among video game fans, but among independent artists in general, for its low cost and time efficiency relative to live action film or other forms of computer animation. According to machinima.com, the target group is males aged 18-34; this could be why I didn’t know about it.

For those like me who are also clueless, “the word ‘machinima’ is a of ‘machine’ and ‘cinema’ and refers to the process of creating real-time animation by manipulating a video game’s engine and assets.[7] Essentially, it is filmmaking using the computer-generated images of a video game. The three-dimensional physics engines of modern video games provides computer animation in real-time, without the need for time-intensive rendering. Screen capture technology, available in most video games, allows a user to record the action as various players control characters in the game. Then, voice-overs are recorded independently and layered onto the visual recording.[8]

Machinima video will be considered an infringing derivative work of the particular video game used in production.[9] Most examples of machinima incorporate graphics (known as art assets) directly from the video game, which would qualify as infringement. While video game publishers may be reluctant to sue fans that distribute machinima videos for free, commercial machinima works are more liable to face legal challenges from copyright holders. Nevertheless, video game copyright owners would benefit from granting licenses to machinima producers since a it could serve as an effective marketing device for the video game title, and also build brand loyalty.

The bottom line: even though machinima productions may infringe upon copyrighted video games, these legal issues are not likely to impede the development of the genre as a whole. On the other hand, holders of video game copyrights have strong incentives to license their intellectual property in order to encourage this art form.[10]

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~ by ajacksonf on September 6, 2018.

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