Over the past few years, it can be seen that even the pandemic, the online gambling industry is one of the sectors that has grown by leaps and bounds. A successful online game does not only mean 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 aspects, such as the sale of toys, accessories, clothing or clothing, and many other objects using the character of the game.
Additionally, a video game company owning a hit game can also be profitable by licensing production rights to game-inspired television series, ad campaigns, or other online social media content. Thus, the protection of copyright, or intellectual property in general, of an online game is essential and crucial for the game owner to benefit from his investment in the development of a game. Obtaining copyright protection becomes even more important due to the borderless nature of online game distribution and development.
Which 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 be automatically protected by 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 protected by the copyright regime may include:
- game characters;
- Gameplay or stories of the game;
- sounds and music;
- Graphic and visual design;
- Computer code or program.
Each item above requires different specific standards to be protected under the copyright regime. Where such material qualifies for copyright protection, the rightholder shall have the exclusive right to, among other things, prevent others from reproducing the game, derivative works of the game, distributing copies of the game, to display the copyrighted elements of the game publicly, …
Who is the real copyright owner of the game?
When it comes to monetizing online games, the most important thing is who is the legal copyright owner of the game, whether it’s the original creator of the game or the game company that invests money in 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 hire” which assumes that the game company (usually organizations or employers) will own the copyright to 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 well-known principle of US copyright law.
However, applying the above principle to practical cases is not so easy under Vietnamese intellectual property laws. According to the laws of Vietnam, there is no exact principle of “work for pay” as seen in some common law jurisdictions like the United States. Although Vietnam’s intellectual property laws still have the rule which has a similar approach, it 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 must bear the burden of proof. This process has never been an easy path, 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 to register it. However, given the potential disputes 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 their right. to the game. Registration will provide a presumption that the party whose name appears on the certificate is the copyright owner of the game. intellectual property rights.
In addition, since Vietnam is a signatory member of the Berne Convention on Comprehensive Copyright Protection of Works, when the game (or one of its components) is successfully registered in Vietnam, such registered game will be also protected in 179 Berne member countries. Convention.
Quick steps to strengthen online gaming copyright protection:
- Be sure to prove the game creation process to prove copyright ownership if necessary;
- Identify the intellectual property rights you have and consider registering them to protect them (mandatory and voluntary);
- Enter into contracts that clearly state who owns the copyright with all parties involved in the game development process;
- Ensure that all trade secrets are protected by NDAs between all parties;
- Monitor the market to quickly discover potential intellectual property infringements.