Games Law Round-Up: February and March 2012

Sorry – this is two months’ worth of games law news updates, since GDC got in the way of finalising the February update.  Still, what a couple of months it’s been!  Here we go…
 
Lawsuits:
 
Microsoft has had to commence proceedings at the US National Arbitration Forum for the transfer of fake site “Halo4beta.net” to it.
 
The SABAM decision has been handed down by the European Court of Justice, holding that: “The owner of an online social network cannot be obliged to install a general filtering system, covering all its users, in order to prevent the unlawful use of musical and audio-visual works
 
In the UK, the High Court has ruled that the Pirate Bay involves copyright infringement (thereby bringing it a large step towards being effectively shut down in the UK).  A further hearing is due later this year.
 
The lawsuit between DeNA and GREE continues, with DeNA apparently ordered to pay GREE $2.9m in damages for copyright infringement.
 
Justin Bieber is suing over a game featuring a character called “Joustin Beaver” [yet another celebrity rights of publicity lawsuit then…]
 
New patent troll Gametek is suing Facebook, Zynga and Playfish among others over patents allegedly held over virtual currency monetisation methods.
 
Developer and indie darling Mojang has settled its trademark dispute with publisher Bethesda [I wrote about the spat more here].
 
The oncoming juggernaut lawsuit between Activision, EA and the former founders of Infinity Ward is rolling on, with a recent interlocutory skirmish involving in some fraud claims being jettisoned.  Expect trial later this year…
 
EMI is suing the developers of Def Jam Rapster, claiming that it failed to obtain sufficient rights over its music before including it in the game.  [This is interesting, since it’s the first time I’m aware that a music label has sued a games developer.  The issue at the heart of the dispute – licensing music for a game – is reasonably common but not commonplace at the moment, so it’s worth keeping an eye on]
 
Regulation:
 
Google changed its approach to privacy by implementing a single privacy policy to cover all its data collection/usage.  It has since come under attack, including claims that it breaches EU privacy law.
 
I’m still getting queries about data protection so, for those who didn’t see it recently, here’s Osborne Clarke’s quick guide to the new EU data protection proposals.
 
Insolvencies 🙁
 
Game Group, the UK’s only remaining nationwide high street games retailer, went into administration in March.  Some good news so far – its UK operations will be spun out into a new business.  No good news for its international operations yet though. [I wrote this quick Q&A guide about what this means legally: What does Game’s Administration Mean For You?]
 
 
A miscellany of interesting things:
 
The UK government unexpectedly announced it would grant the UK games industry a tax break.  I wrote about the opportunities and challenges of a UK games tax break – expect more about this in the next few months.
 
Here’s an interesting Gamasutra feature comparing how Sony and Valve coped with hacking attacks
 
Microsoft has raised some interesting questions about whether the Microsoft Office licence covers access to the software via cloud gaming platform OnLive.  [The legal issues surrounding cloud are being debated more and more in tech generally, but have yet to really penetrate in the games industry – that’s slowly changing though, as this example shows]
 
In a touching display of dedication to the cause, a US congressman has proposed a law mandating cigarette-style health warning labels for games – a proposal he has already put forward at least six times without access.
 
More writings by Jas:
 
 
My Edge column for March 2012: Playing the Funding Game.
 
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