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>Virtual Assets, Real Money

>A favorite topic of discussion for many of the authors of this blog is virtual game worlds and virtual property. According to a recent online survey, about 10% of Americans spent real world money on virtual goods last year, the average tab being about $30. Granted, the survey results may be a bit skewed, since the participants were polled online, and thus more likely to be involved in virtual worlds and more comfortable with online transactions. However, despite its limitations, this survey adds insight to consumer spending behavior that is projected to lead to about $1 billion in sales of virtual goods worldwide this year. So, why spend real money for intangible digital items that you don’t really own? Well, the central goal of almost every player in a virtual game world is to acquire virtual assets that increase an avatar’s abilities or status within the game world. Virtual game… Continue Reading

>Potential New Implied Software License Warranty

>The American Law Institute has issued a proposed final draft on the “Principles of Law of Software Contracts” (click here to obtain a copy). In this draft, the ALI seeks to provide (suggested) clarifications and requirements in the context of software licenses. While it is not a law or statute, it does serve as a model for States to choose to adopt, and can provide guidance to judges who seek assistance in interpreting software licenses and contracts. One of the areas of concern is that the draft creates an implied warranty of no material hidden defects AND that this warranty is non-disclaimable. The effect, if this were to become law, would be that customers would be able to bring a claim for bugs in the software. Of course, depending on whether you are a software developer or a software buyer will dictate your reaction to this new “requirement.” Looking closer… Continue Reading

>Copyright Office and Electronic Filing

>The Copyright Office continues to try and push itself into the digital age. The Office has been trying to implement an electronic filing system, but there have been a few hiccups along the way. However, as they have been ironing out the kinks, the Copyright Office has become more aggressive in pushing filers to use the electronic system. Prices for filing copyrights will be changing on August 1. The new prices will be $35 for filing an electronic application, $50 to file the scannable CO form, and the traditional paper filing will now be $65. Remember, though, whenever you are filing the copyright application (electronic or otherwise), to be very careful about your deposit materials. I have seen many copyright infringement cases go awry because of mistakes made with the deposit materials … but I’ll save that for another post.

>Tip: Shutting Things Down… But Not For Good

>Are you thinking about phasing out a studio? Are you shelving a project? Sometimes that has to happen, but one thing to be careful of is how you handle the company/project name. If you announce to the world “Studio XYZ is ending development and shutting down”, do you really want someone else in the marketplace to form a new studio with the name “XYZ”?If you want to try and prevent a competitor from adopting your former project’s or studio’s name, you need to find a way to keep using that name in connection with your business. Consider keeping a description of it on your web site or other marketing materials. Avoid a broad, all-encompassing press release describing your intention to “abandon” a project. There’s a bit more detail to process to keep the name alive, but the key component is that you need to find some way to keep using… Continue Reading

>Update on California "Violent" Games Law

>As we reported here back in February, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed a district judge’s 2007 ruling that a California law that restricts sales of “violent” video games to minors is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit found the law unconstitutional because it was not narrowly tailored, because treating violence as obscenity is not permissible by the Constitution and because the state had not demonstrated that violent video games cause psychological or neurological damage. After the law was defeated at the Ninth Circuit, Governor Schwarzenegger announced the filing of a petition for certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to save the law, arguing that the same justifications for precluding sales of pornography to minors should be applied to violent video games. “By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law… Continue Reading

>Malware and Online Games

>Its a crazy world out there. Fox News has a story today about how the Neopets web site is being (indirectly) used to get children to download malware to their computer. After scratching through the article, it appears that what is really happening is that the ‘bad guys’ are convincing kids to click a link, whether in an email or private message, which in turn causes the malware to install on the computer. From a vendor perspective, this is both good and bad news.The good news is that the game itself has not been compromised. This was a social engineering exploit — try and get the child to voluntariy clikc the link. There was not any hacking and user information was not stolen — its never a good thing to send your customer base a security breach notification letter. The bad news is that, unlike the hacking problem, this is… Continue Reading

>Clickwrap Agreements and the iPhone

>I was thinking about this issue the other day as a potential blog posting, but now that I’ve sat down to write the post, this may be deserving of an entire paper. Clickwrap/browsewrap/shrinkwrap agreements all have the same fundamental characteristic: “automatic” consent to the terms of the agreement as a condition to use the product. The documents are generally non-negotiable. The quid pro quo is that a software vendor would have to double, triple (or more) the software license fee if it were required to negotiate each agreement with each customer. While initially controversial, these form of agreements have become the accepted manner of entering into agreements in the software (and video game) arenas. As software delivery continues its shift to the internet, the issues of the legality and enforceability of clickwrap agreements may end up being revisited.The thing that brought this to mind is the latest version of the… Continue Reading

>Rocket Jumping in Fallout 3?

>A couple of days ago, we found out that legendary developer id Software has sold itself to ZeniMax Media Inc., the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. This means that the company that defined the PC shooter genre (and is responsible for me missing more than a few college classes) will now be owned by the current leader in role-playing games, with titles like Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series. The sale marks the end of id’s long and impressive run as a stand-alone company (it was founded in 1991). id’s press release said the deal will not affect its daily operations much, as it becomes one of four studios within the ZeniMax family. John Carmack, lighting effects genius and space rocket builder, will continue to head id as “Technical Director.” It is unclear whether id will continue its unique policy of releasing the source code for its older games to… Continue Reading

>Xbox Live Targeted for Patent Infringement (again)

>A patent infringement suit targeting Xbox Live that we’ve been keeping our eye on went to trial yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The suit was originally filed back in September, 2004, by two inventors claiming Xbox Live infringed two of their patents covering voice and data communications technology. This case already produced some fireworks last month, when the judge overseeing the case threatened Microsoft’s counsel with sanctions for a “frivolous objection” to a discovery request. Microsoft’s counsel had objected to a request by the plaintiffs for a document relating to a “2008 deposition” of a certain Microsoft employee, when they meant to say “2009 deposition.” The judge asserted that Microsoft’s counsel improperly used a typographical error to raise an objection on the ground of vagueness. The judge also chided Microsoft’s counsel for producing over 140,000 documents without an index, saying the action demonstrated… Continue Reading

>Nintendo Granted Summary Judgment in V-Chip Lawsuit

>Nintendo of America Inc., producer of the Wii home video game console, scored a victory on June 2, 2009, when a federal district judge in the Central District of California granted Nintendo’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the Wii does not infringe a V-chip censoring technology patent. Nintendo had asserted all along that the parental controls that allow Wii users to selectively prevent the play of games based on Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) classifications were fundamentally different than the technology taught by the patents, which are owned by Guardian Media Technologies, Ltd., a Texas-based limited partnership and non-practicing entity. The court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, issued on June 8, 2009, identify such a fundamental difference and justified Nintendo’s opposition of a complaint that has already prompted several defendants settle with Guardian rather than see the matter through to trial. Not just a victory for Nintendo,… Continue Reading

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