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Introduction to Video Game Law: A Russian Perspective

1 June - 31 December 2022 г.
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  • English

    course language

  • 6 weeks

    course duration

  • от 2 до 4 часов в неделю

    needed to educate

  • 1 credit points

    for credit at your university

About

This course focuses on basic approaches to those legal issues that relate to the unique features of computer games that have legal significance and the social relationships that arise around them. The history of the development of computer games is, at the same time, the history of the cutting-edge technologies, from multiplayer network interaction in a persistent environment, to artificial intelligence and VR / AR. As a consequence, an analysis of the legal issues of the computer games industry is at the same time an analysis of the legal issues of these technologies. A good part of it is directly or indirectly reflected in the materials. The course will be interesting for a wide range of listeners – from lawyers wishing to improve their qualification to representatives of game developing companies and publishers seeking to form general but systematic ideas of what legal problems are related to their professional activity. While the author is a Russian practicing lawyer, and many of the examples focus on the national law and practice, the course may be useful to anyone interested in the topic, since the legal problems of the videogame industry in the world are based on the same logic. The author of the course is one of the first lawyers in Russia who began to specialize in this field long before it became a trend, and he has been a participant of numerous practical and academic projects that share a sincere and unyielding interest in the topic of games.

The author would like to express his gratitude to volunteers who assisted with the technical aspects of work on the course, including Maria Kulikova, Lidia Volokitina, Ivan Nikiforov, Egor Sobanskiy, Denis Novikov, as well as to the team of Saint Petersburg State University’s Center for Development of Digital Educational Resources, including Vladimir Starostenko, Yulia Smirnova, Evegeniy Kolosov, Ardak Mukanova,  Anton Vetrov, Stanislav Ushakov, Daniel Kildyushevsky, Roman Podoprigora and others, who made this course happen.

This course contains some decorations of role-playing mechanics’ style. If you are, by spirit, a videogame tester, and notice some bug or glitch, please feel free to contact us!

Course program

Level 1. Introduction. Computer Games as Object of Legal Relationships.

This level introduces you to your companion for the course, Player 1, as well as to the basics of skill development and searching for media reality artifacts that will be useful for you (to entertain you a bit, we have added opportunities to earn some experience points and gather something for your inventory during the course). You will also learn about basic definitions of interest to us as lawyers, basic aspects of game design relevant to law, and recall some great old (and not so old) computer games. By spirit, this level is closer to game studies than to jurisprudence.

Level 2. Intellectual Property in Videogame Industry.

Intellectual property law issues are probably the first specific subject worth mentioning in the context of talking about law and games. Is a game just a computer program or is it something more? Do individual elements of a game stand a chance of legal protection? What basic legal constructs are worth considering when formalizing intellectual property relationships? You will find the answers to these questions you (together with Player 1) at this level. Note that the content focuses primarily on copyright issues according to the Russian model. 

Level 3. Computer Game Content: Protection of Children, “Violent Videogames” and Freedom of Speech.

This level will introduce you to basic ideas about how game content can be restricted from a public interest perspective. This topic is not always liked (or always disliked) by game companies, but it would be wrong to ignore it: games are a form of media, and restrictions on the dissemination of information at different levels of regulation can apply to computer games, too. And we will also touch on the topic of "violent computer games" and their connection to real-life violence.

Level 4. Virtual Property, Lootboxes and Other Nuances of MMOs.

Although this is the fourth level, it is the problems of "virtual property" in multiplayer games that breathe genuine life into the "videogame law" debate. If you feel the same excitement in contemplating the possibility of having an analogue of ownership in the virtual world as we do, you will find this level interesting. As we worked on its content, we came to the conclusion that the old ideas of virtual worlds pioneer Dr. Richard Bartle are as relevant today as ever. Would you agree?  

Level 5. Personal Data and Non-Material Values in Videogame Industry.

Contrary to popular belief, the very idea of personal data protection is over a century old. But let us face it, it has only become widespread in recent years, when information technology entered our lives so rapidly that it almost shattered the remnants of anonymity on the Internet (or has it already been shattered completely?). The games and videogame industry employ personal data, too. And this topic also intersects meaningfully with the concept of non-material values, typical of the countries of the continental legal system, which also found a place at this level.  

Level 6. Legal Aspects of eSports: Theoretical Foundations and Practice.

Some (like the author of this course) may be convinced that the ultimate purpose of computer games is to replace "real" reality with virtual reality and a live companion with a superior artificial intelligence. Even so, it is worth acknowledging that cybersport is a unique phenomenon, based on a combination of multiplayer games and sports. Even if artificial intelligence is replaced by an ordinary form of mind. What are the main legal aspects of eSports? Our author, who repeatedly got into the Mythic division of Magic: The Gathering Arena ranked games, will tell you about it.   

Education results

Upon completion of this course learners will achieve the following learning objectives:

1.1. The student will learn how to identify the various legal relationships formed in connection with multiplayer games.

1.2. The student will learn how to identify key legally significant features of computer games.

2.1. The student will learn how to determine in general terms the ways of formalizing legal relations associated with intellectual property in game development.

2.2. The student will learn how to identify legal risks associated with the use of characters and game objects based on real prototypes in game content.

2.3. The student will learn how to determine the legal nature of the objects that make up computer games from the perspective of intellectual property law.

3.1. The student will learn how to identify general areas of legal risks associated with the possible legal implications of controversial content in Russia.

3.2. The student will learn how to identify general areas of legal risk associated with public perception of controversial game content.

4.1. The student will learn how to identify general areas of risk associated with the possible recognition of game mechanics as gambling from a legal perspective.

4.2. The student will learn how to determine when certain elements of legal design in MMOs, such as virtual property, may be legally relevant.

5.1. The student will learn how to identify general areas of legal risks associated with the use of personal data and non-material values in the video game industry.

5.2. The student will learn how to identify key areas of application of legislation concerning personal data and non-material values to game content and relationships in the video game industry.

6.1. The student will learn how to define a common approach to the basic terms of contracts between cybersports organizations and players.

6.2. The student will learn how to identify the main areas of relationships in cybersports that require attention to legal aspects.

Formed competencies

The course is aimed at the formation of general learning competencies for Bachelor’s and Specialists’ programs, as well as other competencies included in the education program.

Education directions

Архипов Владислав Владимирович

Доктор юридических наук
Position: заведующий кафедрой теории и истории государства и права

Certificate

It is possible to get a certificate for this course.

The cost of passing the procedures for assessing learning outcomes with personal identification - 4900 Р.

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