All posts tagged with legal opinion

By on June 19, 2014 at 11:34 am

Here’s a thing: Australia does not allow fair use of copyrighted materials. Sure, we have “fair dealing”, but it’s not the same. Not at all. Fair dealing is extremely restricted, and many activities you might think are OK, are actually illegal — such as creating gameplay movies and sharing screenshots, for example.

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Mass Effect Dialogue Wheel

By on May 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Last fortnight we looked at our the industry grew up during the 80s. Back then, patents were not the omnipresent force they are today, but still had their impacts. We saw how the patent for Pong led Bobby Kotick to acquire a struggling Activision.

It’s fair to say that patents have exploded since. Nowadays, just about anything in software gets patented. Have a game concept? Any game concept? Better patent before someone else does. Then, if someone makes a similar game you can sue. For this reason you’ll see patents reviled on forums every so often, but unlike software piracy, patents don’t often take centre stage.

But make no mistake, patents are a big deal—they affect gaming far more than piracy. Every gamer should have some understanding of the issue, lest we suddenly wake up and find EA has gone all Monsanto on us. Here you’ll find the latest on the patents issue.

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By on May 1, 2014 at 10:16 am

James’ article earlier this week about the problems with Steam and quality control brought back memories of the Video Games Crash of 1983. Well, whatever repressed memories I have are probably pooping in a crib, but the internet helps me imagine: An overconfident Atari abandoned quality control, leading to the refusal of gamers to purchase such buggy delights as E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and a really shoddy Pac-Man port. The result: A total crash of the console gaming market, allowing PCs to take their rightful, leading place (for a while).

Okay, so it wasn’t a bad outcome at all. I dunno why everyone talks ill of it. But the crash did highlight one other thing: That much of the gaming industry was built by lawyers. Today we’ll look at how, so you’ll be able to answer the question of “How the games industry grew up”. It might arise on a date.

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The Secret World

By on April 17, 2014 at 8:15 pm

This April Fool’s Day, Funcom released the mankini into The Secret World. Several days later, those who bought it were emailed that it was just an April Fool’s joke. Every purchaser was refunded in Funcom shop points, and the mankini removed from their characters.

This provoked considerable outrage among the players. I mean, what the hell, Funcom. Leaving aside the “artistic merits” of the mankini (though anything is better than rainbow space lasers), this was illegal. You don’t just encourage someone to buy something, take it away, and then refund with a completely different currency they may have no use for after the incentive has gone away. That’s bait and switch.

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Barrett M98B

By on April 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Games publishers pay all sorts of people to bring you the games you play. More than just developers and marketers, publishers have to budget in payments to musicians, payments to arms manufacturers, payments to celebrities, and even payments to porn stars (if your game is Saints Row 4).

We talk product placement advertising as if it’s some sort of bad thing, but just about everything you’ll see in game is owned by someone—and often that someone is not the developer or publisher. And often they demand money. And often they insist on how their property can be used in the game. Today we’ll be looking at where your money goes when you buy a game, and how it influences what you see and hear when you start playing.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth

By on March 24, 2014 at 1:43 pm

On Thursday I thought we could all have a nice, friendly chat about whether there’s a parallel between censorship issues in gaming , and the laws restricting guns. After all, Fox News sure likes to link the two together, and gamers need to be able to engage in these debates thrust upon us. What I didn’t anticipate was how emotive the issue would be, and I apologise. I’m not even pro gun—don’t own a gun, don’t have the intention to, and don’t believe that guns are the answer to violence. Like Leliana, I like bows.

But I am concerned that existing laws will not be enough once technology evolves. Laws should always be reviewed, and questioned. They should never be mere appeasement. Always reviewed to ensure they were not the case of politicians taking advantage of people’s emotions, and constantly questioned for objectivity.

So today’s question is whether gaming censorship laws were political appeasement, or whether they’re actually effective. To answer this question, we need to examine what the objective of the laws is, how they pursue this objective, and whether, in the words of one commentator “Some law is no better than no law.”

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Russian Troops in the Crimea

By on March 6, 2014 at 10:14 am

Never mind the threat of all-out war, could we make a video game out of the Ukraine crisis? I mean this in the most innocent way possible, as we both know that real lives are at stake. However, Ukraine is demonstrating many rules of war that games often ignore.

Ukraine is tense. Neither side wants to fire the first shot. Both are claiming moral and legal legitimacy. This is real high stakes conflict, where actions are measured, considered. The slightest mistake could set off a powder keg.

Few games portray this drama.

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Legend of Crouching Dragon

By on January 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Heard of Legend of Crouching Dragon? Made in China, it’s the uncanny valley version of Blizzard’s Hearthstone collectable card game. Just replace “version” with “exact rip off” and you’re there. Blizzard just sued its creators for 1.65 million in the Chinese courts.

This comes after we discussed Battlefield 4′s banning in my “write about China” month. It’s interesting, because I don’t remember Chinese shenanigans ever making the news so much as they are now. Previously, publishers were content to treat China as a gaming black hole, without making serious efforts to crack the market. And why bother? Games would either be censored by the State, or pirated up the yin yang.

However, times are changing. China is striding into the global economy (okay, rolling), making trade deals with America and other western nations. A decade-long ban on mainstream consoles has just been lifted. In this light, Blizzard’s lawsuit is significant as part of efforts to make the Chinese games market profitable for publishers.

The question is… will it work, or is China’s piracy problem too far gone? And is it even relevant to us in Australia?

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Battlefield 4 China Flag

By on January 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I have many bullets to spare. At the risk of sounding insensitive, that is my gamer’s impression of the Chinese military, care of Electronic Arts. Which I guess is why China’s Ministry of Culture recently banned Battlefield 4 –clueless westerners might think the game is actually real. But here’s the specific reason given by China:

Battlefield 4 is an illegal video game, with content that endangers national security. It is an aggressive attack on our culture.

Now, the idea that a video game could endanger national security is laughable. Clearly, this statement needs fleshing out.

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Shut Up And Take My Money

By on November 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

Ever wanted to own a games studio? Now you can! Almost. And you can thank Obama.

In 2012, the Americans signed into law the JOBS Act, or Jumpstart Our Business Startups. Now, at the end of 2013, it’s almost operational. In a nutshell, it allows business to crowdfund their investment capital. This is as crazy as it sounds.

Well, not crazy—it’s widely supported by the tech sector. But it ramps Kickstarter up to eleven and will be one of the next big things for the games industry in 2014. (You read that here first—I checked.)

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By on November 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm

John Rau, the South Australian Attorney-General, just called for a review of the several games rated MA15+. Murder simulators such as Splinter Cell Blacklist, Killer is Dead, and The Walking Dead. Apparently these games had been released as 18+ in some countries, but only MA15+ here. Some were not happy about this lack of moral standards.

Earlier this year, Mr Rau also claimed this discrepancy meant games were not receiving rigorous attention at the review stage. However, Australia’s classification system is different from that of other countries, so perhaps we should make our own decisions. We need to develop our own Australian standard of what is fair game.

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War Crimez

By on October 10, 2013 at 11:23 am

I’m a big fan of The Witcher. Decisions really mean something. Save a villager, or slay a monster. Your choice dictates whether you shag now, or shag later. Consequences.

The Red Cross would like to see this gameplay in first person shooters. Arguing that games allow active decisions by players, they want to see real consequences and penalties for war crimes committed in game to raise awareness for the legal and humanitarian issues real soldiers deal with.

This is a noble goal, and games have done this successfully before. However, there are several hurdles in the way of this becoming standard within games, not the least that it requires cherry picking which laws you obey, and which you allow players to brazenly breach.

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Malcolm Turnbull and optic fiber

By on September 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Here’s the plan. After decimating Indonesia’s fishing industry with our bottomless slush fund, we haul their boats back to Australia. This done, we tow the boats to every suburban street corner, load them with telecom gear, and fibre them to the NBN. Finally, the last metres of frayed, rain-soaked copper goes to every home, garage, and boatshed in the nation. It’s fibre to the boat, the sort of primary industry-focused policy we could have had with the foresight to vote in Bob Katter’s Australia Party.*

Could have, would have, should have. Like many gamers, I’m bitterly disappointed with our new government’s proposed broadband policy. That’s not to say I voted on this issue: Labor’s brand of leadership musical chairs makes me ill. But still, fibre to the node sucks—a technological dead end of sunken costs.

All is not lost, however. Fibre to the node is still just a glimmer in the eye of Malcolm Turnbull—Mr Broadband (as is how our PM describes him). As we’ve seen before, politicians are capable of some impressive backflips. Could this happen here?

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Gamer Rage

By on August 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Gamer rage is on the rise, threatening developers’ livelihoods — quite literally. The case of Jennifer Hepler, a former BioWare writer, is well known. Hepler received death threats against herself and her children for her role as one of Dragon Age 2’s writers.

The rather less well known case of Joel Bylos, game director of The Secret World, is the opposite. Commenting on the polite behaviour of the game’s community, Joel wrote last week that the community was “a major factor in my decision to stay on as Game Director for the game.”

How the gaming public reacts to a developer is becoming a major factor in where—and even if these developers choose to work.

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By on August 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm

The other week the Australian Law Reform Commission released their report on IT price fixing. “At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax” examines, among other things, why so many games are more expensive in Australia despite being delivered across the same Steam or Origin server. It’s a bloody outage.

The main cause for this shoddy practice is geoblocking. The store detects your location through comparing your IP address and credit card, and if you’re an Australian, another $40 is added to the price.

The Commission’s report found the practice unjustified, and made a number of recommendations to fix. Today we’ll be looking at these.

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Steam End User Agreement

By on July 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Last year, the EU Court of Justice found that publishers could not oppose the reselling of software licenses. On these grounds, a German consumer group decided to sue Valve to try and make the gaming giant allow Steam users to resell their games. Hooray.

However, when we reported this news story, all 61 comments revolved around whether games should be sold as licences in the first place. So that’s what we’ll be looking at today. We’ll start by examining at why licences are used in games, look at why they end up badly, and then finish with how they could be improved.

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Saints Row 4

By on July 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

So, what’s the deal with our new R18+ regs? The impression I get from reading the gaming news is that the Classification Board is banning games left right and centre. Some gamers have even claimed that R18+ is just a rebadged MA15+, and that any games now approved under R18+ would have been done so under MA15+.

Which is… actually kinda true. Most games that have been let through under R18+ would have been let through under MA15+. Only a couple are “true” R18+ games. Yet despite this, our classification system is giving us more certainty over what we’ll be allowed to play. It’s an improvement. To see this, we need to compare what’s been Refused Classification with what’s been accepted under R18+.

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Aliens: Colonial Marines

By on May 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

If BioWare had shown Kelly in the trailers for the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC, I’d be pissed — because they completely left her out of the final product. I’m still pissed, but I’d be even more pissed if they had my hopes up.

A (somewhat) similar issue occurred with Aliens: Colonial Marines. The game was possibly the worst game ever made (in 2013). Our own review called it “an embarrassment that should never have been released”.

This was particularly cutting because the work in progress demonstration trailer had previously showed a far better game. Some gamers were so riled up that they launched a class action lawsuit against Sega and Gearbox for false advertising.

Opinion around the interwebs has been divided. While most players support the lawsuit, some just aren’t sure whether it has a chance of succeeding. Today, we’ll be looking at whether the Aliens: Colonial Marines pre-release demonstration trailer was false advertising enough to give grounds for a lawsuit.

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