Over the past few years, it can be seen that even the pandemic, the online gaming industry is one of the sectors that has grown by leaps and bounds. A successful online game not only means that it attracts a large number of users who buy or pay for the game, but it also means that the game owner will have many ways to monetize the game in all its aspects, such as that the sale of toys, accessories, clothing or clothing, and many other items using the character of the game.
In addition, a game company owning a successful game may also take advantage of the licensing to produce television series, advertising campaigns or other online content inspired by the game on social media networks. Thus, the protection of copyright, or intellectual property in general, of an online game, is essential and crucial for the owner of the game to benefit from his investment in the development of a game. Copyright protection becomes even more important due to the borderless nature of online game distribution and development.
What elements of the game can be protected?
Simply put, the copyright regime protects the original expression of creative works. In Viet Nam, as in most countries, the creative work can automatically be protected under the copyright regime once the work has been created in a certain form and meets the standard of originality. With respect to the gaming industry, items that may be copyrighted by the copyright regime may include:
- Game characters;
- Gameplay or game stories;
- Sounds and music;
- Work of art and visual design;
- Computer code or program.
Each of the above items requires different specific standards to be protected under copyright law. When said elements meet the condition of being protected by copyright, the right holder has the exclusive right, among other things, to prohibit third parties from reproducing the game, works derived from the game, distributing copies of the game, to display the material protected by copyright. of the game publicly, …
Who is the real owner of the copyright in the game?
When it comes to monetizing online games, the most important thing is who is the legal owner of the copyright in the game, whether it is the original creator of the game or the game company investing money in it. the production of the game (in the simple scenario). In the world of intellectual property law, there is a fairly simple principle called “work for pay” which assumes that the game company (usually organizations or employers) will own the copyright in the game if the creator original (ie the coder, designer,…) is the employee of the game company or the production of the game is financed by the game company. This principle is a famous principle of US copyright law.
However, applying the above principle to practical cases is not that easy under Vietnamese intellectual property laws. According to the laws of Vietnam, there is no exact “work for pay” principle as seen in some common law jurisdictions such as the United States. Although the intellectual property laws of Vietnam still have the rule which has the similar approach, this does not apply to the moral rights of authors or creators under Article 19 of Vietnam’s intellectual property law. .
In practice, it is common for many coders, designers to work for different game studios as independent contractors or freelancers without a detailed contract. In these cases, the party claiming ownership of the game will have to bear the burden of proof. This process has never been an easy road, especially for digital products like online games.
Copyright protection by voluntary registration
As in many countries, under Vietnamese intellectual property laws, copyright protection applies as soon as the work is fixed in a certain form without the need for registration. However, given the potential conflicts over game ownership and the plaintiff’s burden of proof which is usually complicated and subjective, the common advice is that the game owner should voluntarily register copyright protection for his or her. right to play. The registration will provide a presumption that the party whose name appears on the certificate is the owner of the copyright in the game. This makes it easier to prove copyright ownership and to deal with infringement intellectual property rights.
Also, since Vietnam is a signatory member of the Berne Convention on the Global Protection of Copyright of Works, when the game (or any of its components) is successfully registered in Vietnam, that game registered will also be protected in 179 member countries of Berne. Convention.
Quick Steps to Strengthen Online Gaming Copyright Protection:
- Make sure to prove the game creation process to prove copyright ownership if necessary;
- Identify the intellectual property rights you have and consider registering to protect them (mandatory and voluntary);
- Enter into contracts clearly indicating who owns the copyright with all parties related to the game development process;
- Make sure that all trade secrets are protected by nondisclosure agreements between all parties;
- Monitor the market to quickly uncover potential intellectual property violations.