Gaming has become a billion-dollar global industry. The world of gaming law is growing alongside it. In the recent past, there are growing Common Misconceptions About Gaming Law.
In the past few years, the gaming industry has seen a boom in the creation of new gaming startups and a proliferation of gaming-focused law firms, both in the US and abroad. With the increasing growth and expansion of gaming law, it’s also become common for consumers to have questions about how gaming law applies to specific games, how it’s different from traditional copyright law, and what sort of considerations they should be aware of before playing a game that isn’t legal under their jurisdiction’s laws.
This article will address the top 10 common gaming law misconceptions that you should be aware of as a gamer.
1. Gaming is identical to gambling.
While some aspects of gaming and gambling do overlap, there are important differences between the two. Gambling is a legal activity that revolves around the use of chance, with games often featuring some element of skill. For example, in Craps the player bets money on the result of a roll of the dice, but in Poker, the player bets to win hands. Gaming is a much broader term that includes all forms of play that are not gambling.
While some games, like Poker and Bingo, may feature elements of chance, they are still determined by the rules of the game, not the results of a roll of the dice or a card draw. Similarly, while skill may factor into the outcome of a game, the vast majority of games are not determined by the rules of the game itself, but by chance.
More importantly, while gambling is often associated with elicit or even illegal activities, such as bookmaking, lotteries, and games of chance played underground or in illegal casinos, gaming is a legal industry that’s regulated by governments.
2. All games are the same.
While there are some similarities among various games, such as a common reliance on chance, games are typically unique in their rules, themes, and formats. For example, while Solitaire and Chess share similarities in that both are games of strategic placement of pieces on a board, they are also very different games with unique themes, rules, and formats.
The same can be said for different games across an entire genre, such as AAA and indie games, MMORPGs, or puzzle games. While there may be some commonalities, such as a reliance on chance, or an emphasis on cooperative play, each game type is uniquely themed, format, and rules.
3. You can’t earn real money gambling on a game.
While it’s not possible to make real money gambling on a game, it’s not entirely accurate to claim that you can’t make money “playing” a game either. After all, you can play online games and make money while you are logged on to the games’ servers.
More importantly, many blockchain games allow players to earn virtual currency that can be exchanged for real money. Take, for example, the video game CryptoKitties, which uses the Ethereum blockchain to let players collect and trade digital cats. By creating unique breeds and selling them, players can earn a small amount of Ether that can be used to buy items in-game or traded for real money.
4. All of the games in a certain genre are the same.
Just as there are many different types of games, there are also many different genres within gaming. Genres can be defined by a common theme, setting, or format, but are usually more diverse than simply “all of the games in a certain genre are the same.”
For example, Boardgames involve rules that are often based on rolling dice, moving pieces on a board, or drawing cards, while Cardgames are often based on hands of cards, with strategy often revolving around using the right combination of cards to win. Similarly, while first-person shooters may share some commonalities, such as a first-person perspective and shooter mechanics, each FPS game is unique in its genre.
5. Online gaming is a grey area in gaming law.
The legality of online gaming varies by country and is constantly evolving as both governments and online gaming providers try to find the right balance between protecting the interests of legitimate players and promoting awareness of game policies and age restrictions.
That said, there are a few things that are universally true about online gaming: It’s not the same thing as gambling, it’s not allowed in all countries, and you can be sued for it.
6. You can’t sue a game developer for poor gameplay design.
As a developer, you have a legal responsibility to make sure your game is fit to be played by anyone, anywhere, at any time. If you design your game in a way that’s likely to cause physical or emotional harm, or encourage or promote illegal activity, you could be held liable.
For example, while first-person shooters are a common type of game, some of them have poor gameplay design that has been known to cause headaches and eye strain among players. This is something that game developers need to be aware of and take into consideration when designing their games.
7. You can’t sue a game publisher for false advertising.
Unlike game developers and publishers, who have a fiduciary duty to make sure their games are fit to be played by anyone, anywhere, at any time, false advertising in a game publisher’s advertising materials is a violation of the law and can lead to legal action.
For example, if a publisher claims that a certain game is suitable for kids 12 and up, but an age gate is required to play the game, the publisher could be held liable for false advertising.
8. The DMCA, and other copyright laws, don’t apply to video games.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a law that protects online services, such as video game networks, from being prosecuted for hosting and/or transmitting copyrighted materials. The DMCA only applies to online services, not when materials are being distributed over the internet through other means, such as on a physical disc, or by other websites.
The DMCA also only applies to the transmission of copyrighted materials, not the design of a game, which is covered under copyright law.
9. There isn’t much you can do if your game is illegal in your jurisdiction.
While there isn’t much that you can do if your game is illegal in your jurisdiction, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure that you are in compliance with the laws of your country and your region, and if you aren’t sure, seek legal advice.
Second, don’t assume that simply because your game is legal in your region, or because you haven’t been charged with a crime, that you are in the clear. Even if you aren’t violating any law that you are aware of, it’s possible that someone else is.
10. Summing up
As the gaming industry continues to grow, so too will the associated legal industry. With that in mind, it’s important for consumers to be aware of the most common gaming law misconceptions so that they can make informed decisions about which games to play and how they’re going to be played.
What are the main differences between gambling and gaming?
Gambling is a form of entertainment with a real money outcome. Gaming is a form of entertainment with a virtual outcome.
What is the difference between digital goods and in-game items?
Digital goods are anything that can be downloaded and sent through the internet—for example, apps, music, and ebooks. In-game items are the actual items that can be used in a game, like virtual weapons and armor.
What is prohibited by federal law as a condition of accessing a gaming service?
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits financial institutions from processing payments for online gambling. That includes credit card payments, online payment services like PayPal, and any financial instruments like bank wires.
If a player wants to buy and sell items in a game, is that legal?
Yes. There’s no federal law that specifically addresses in-game item trading, and there hasn’t been any court decision that says trading in games is illegal. That means the legality of it is up to the game developers—not federal law.
Will my state’s laws apply to my use of a game’s items?
Yes, as long as you’re accessing the game from that state. However, if you’re accessing the game from another state, your jurisdiction’s laws will apply.
Is it legal to stream my gameplay video on Twitch?
Yes. There’s no federal law that specifically addresses streaming gameplay, and there hasn’t been any court decision that says it’s illegal. That means the legality of it is up to the game developer—not federal law.
Gaming has grown into a billion-dollar industry and the world of gaming law is growing alongside it. While gaming and gambling are similar in many ways, it’s important to note the distinctions between the two. The above mentioned points are some of the Common Misconceptions About Gaming Law.
Gaming is not gambling, and it’s important to note the distinctions between the two. While many games feature some form of in-game purchase or exchange system, those systems are not gambling. They have no bearing on the real world outside of the game. They are purely virtual.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that gaming and gambling are not the same. While there are similarities between gaming and gambling (for example, both involve rolling a dice or spinning a wheel to determine some form of outcome), the two are not the same. One could even go as far as to say that gambling is more like a sports event than a game.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that the legal age to gamble in most countries is 18. This is why so many minors try to buy games that contain in-game items that can only be redeemed for real money. These items may seem harmless enough—especially if the player is under 18—but they give the game’s developers an illegal income source.
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