When you play a video game, you probably think of the game as a single item. However, video games include many creative elements, such as art, music, narrative features, and code. Each of these elements is subject to copyright protection, since it consists of original content that has been fixed in a tangible form. Certain other features of video games may qualify for trademark protection, such as the title and logo of the game. Trademarks essentially are branding elements that encourage consumers to associate certain words, symbols, or designs with a product. Entities in the video game industry fiercely protect their intellectual property rights, since vast amounts of investments and profits are often at stake.
The popularity of video games has spawned wide demand for merchandise related to the games. Companies that want to produce and sell this merchandise must sign licensing agreements with the video game publisher or any other entity that holds the intellectual property rights to game content. In exchange for a fee, the licensee can use a character or another protected feature of the video game in its merchandise. A license may be limited to a certain use, a certain location, and a certain length of time.
Licensing by Video Games
Sometimes the video game creator also may need to sign a licensing agreement if they want to integrate content protected by intellectual property or other rights. For instance, a game based on a movie cannot use copyrighted elements of the movie without a license.
Virtual Currencies in Video Games
Many video games contain currencies that players can use to buy items in the game or otherwise improve their game experience. In some cases, these currencies cannot be used outside the game and lack any connection to real-world currency. The player can collect them only by completing certain achievements or getting certain rewards in the game. In other situations, a player may pay something of real value for game currency. They might make a credit card payment or trade for game currency through a currency exchange on the Internet, in which users can exchange currencies across games.
Video Game Advertising and Privacy Protections for Gamers
To comply with consumer protection laws, video game publishers must not advertise their games in misleading or deceptive ways. Ads for free games may need to disclose whether items shown in these ads must be obtained through in-game purchases.
Data Breaches Involving Video Games
If a video game company collects personal data from players, they must protect this data and act immediately when any data breach occurs. Failing to minimize the risk of data breaches or failing to respond appropriately to a breach can destroy consumer trust and cause severe financial losses.