BONUS CONTENT: Copyright in Video Games: Protecting Property or Owning Creativity?

My idea for this segments stems from Warner Bros Studio’s successful patent of their ‘Nemesis System’ used in both the Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor & Middle Earth: Shadow of War games (link). Along with my last discussion piece(link) where I discussed Namco’s patent of the load screen mini game, they’ve got me thinking about copyrights effect on the video game industry and what it means to creative expression.

Copyright is defined as “the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.”. In layman’s terms this means that the creator has the legal right over their own creation. This also means that any use of that material without permission of the owner is considered illegal. If the creator can prove enough similarities between their creation and the creation of another later in time then if the original creation is copyrighted then there is a case of infingement. Copyrightable content can vary from a small part of something like a character, a catchphrase or a melody to a whole creation like a song, video game or book.

From a moral perspective their is a fine line between what is copyrightable and what should be copyrightable. I believe that a creator should hold rights over that they create but my problem lies when these copyrights are so vague that they can hamper the creativity. For example, up until 2018 Sega held the patent for the compass pointing arrow from Crazy Taxi that pointed in the direction of your goal. This and systems similar to it have become quite common place in video games, the likes of Skyrim & Death Stranding come to mind. Imagine if they wern’t allowed to us them? Or even yet when Ubisoft were challenged by Monster Energy drinks because their upcoming game “Gods & Monsters” because the name “Monster” was Trademarked, Ubisoft eventually changed the name to “Immortals: Fenyx Rising”.

I get that people should be able to protect their creations against people stealing and rebranding their own ideas and intelectual property but when it gets to the point people arn’t allowed to build on and improve on what came before them we get to a point of stagnation. Imagine if we did that in the scientific community? “No, you are not allowed to work on relativity because that was Einstein’s thing and he has complete rights over it for X number of year”. We’d still be living in the dark let alone playing video games. Now that would be a real tragidy.

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