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Wednesday, January 3, 2007
How Lawyers Changed Gaming
7:51 AM | Cord Kruse | 1 comment

A recent Gamasutra article examines the impact of litigation on the gaming industry, specifically focusing on issues like copyrights, ownership of user created mods, and first amendment protection. The article offers a few examples of legal decisions which helped define the rights of developers, and provides a glimpse of the future of game related litigation.

Breakout was a 2D game for the Atari 2600 that involved moving a simple bar or “paddle” across the bottom of the screen to hit a ball that bounced up into a four-color brick wall. The game had four different tones to make up the soundtrack. When the ball bounced up into the bricks, it ricocheted back down and had to be hit again with the paddle. When the player failed to bounce the ball back up, the player lost a ball. This process continued until the player ran out of balls.

Today, registering a game with the Copyright Office is a very simple process. It literally involves filling out a short form and mailing in a fee less than $50. Atari attempted to register the copyright for Breakout with the United States Copyright Office and was denied. This began a struggle involving Atari, the Copyright Office, and U.S. courts that lasted more than 5 years. The Copyright Office resisted this registration because it stated that Breakout did not demonstrate the required artistic originality for registration.

In the end, the Copyright Office registered the game and with the support of previous court decisions, this helped pave the way for copyright protection for all modern games.
The full article is available at the link below.

Gamasutra: Litigations That Changed The Game Industry

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