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Working in the video game industry, you may wonder what rights you have over your work. As a video game developer, aspects of what you create may be protected by copyright. Therefore, it is essential to know what is under copyright protection and what is not. Otherwise, you may find that you do not have full intellectual property protection, and your work could be lost. There may also be differences in who the copyright owner is. It is important to clearly understand who this is before you begin developing a video game. This avoids your work being lost halfway through or after the completion of the video game. Finally, no matter who the owner of your video game ends up being, you will usually have moral rights as a copyright creator. This article will set out tips to keep in mind when engaging with copyright as a video game developer.

Understanding Copyright 

Copyright covers a vast amount of original, creative material. These include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • the typographical layout of published editions; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works.

As a video game developer, your work may fall under some of these categories. If it does, then copyright rights and protections will apply to your work automatically when you create it. 

Copyright gives the owner the right to:

  • use their work;
  • stop others from using their work; and 
  • legal protection in case of copyright infringement.

How long copyright lasts depends on the work it applies to. For example, for literary and artistic works, these rights and protections last for 50 years after the creator’s death. If you wish, you can mark your copyrighted material with the © symbol to signal to others that the work is original. 

You should note that even though copyright covers a wide range of creative works, it does not cover everything. For example, if you create something new that classifies as an invention for your video game, you will probably need to register it as a patent. Copyright is just one of the many intellectual property tools available for you to use.

Copyright Ownership and Using Copyrighted Material

If you create a video game purely for yourself and under your own employment, you will be the copyright owner. However, you will likely be employed by someone else to do the work that you are doing. Usually, if you are employed to create copyrighted work, your employer will be the copyright owner. Therefore, your employment contract should include all details about copyright ownership under an intellectual property clause to avoid legal issues. 

There are also other ways that you or another person can use copyrighted material without being the owner. The first way to do this is with a licence agreement. A licence agreement is a contract that allows a user to use copyrighted material with the owner’s permission. It does not change the copyright owner of the material. A licence agreement can be varied to suit the needs of the two parties involved. For example, if you are developing a video game but need help with graphic design or music, you may engage with someone who specialises in that area. You can then use a licence agreement to allow them to use your video game’s copyrighted material. Finally, you can also include specific terms in your licence agreement. For example, you could specify that your work should be kept confidential and can only be used for three months.

One way to transfer copyright ownership is with an assignment. An assignment is the total transfer of copyrighted material and ownership rights to another person. So, if another person is buying the video game that you have developed, you may want to consider using an assignment. 

Understanding Your Moral Rights

As a creator of copyrighted work, you will usually keep your moral rights no matter who the copyright owner is. Moral rights apply automatically, and most last until the copyright duration ends. Moral rights give creators the right to: 

  • be identified as the author of the work, or developer in the case of a video game (right of attribution); 
  • not have a work falsely attributed to them; and
  • object to derogatory treatment of the work (right of integrity).

Key Takeaways 

When you are a video game developer you will likely be creating material that is under copyright protection. To ensure that you can make the most of this and avoid legal issues, you should identify which aspects of your work may be copyrighted. This will help you know what to do in the case of copyright infringement. You should also determine who the copyright owner is so that you can make the most out of your work. No matter what, you will almost always have moral rights as the creator of the work. If you need further assistance with your intellectual property, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a patent?

A patent is an intellectual property tool that protects new and original inventions.

Do I need to use the © symbol?

No, you do not have to use the © symbol but it can be useful to show others that your work is original.

Does it cost anything to have copyright protection?

No, copyright protection is free.

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