Copyright, Video Gaming’s Version of Buzz Killington

Take a look at your game collection on the shelf behind you. You see it there in all its glory? Have you ever considered that your gaming collection doesn’t actually belong to you? Have you ever thought that your special edition copy of Halo 4 isn’t actually your property? No, I didn’t think so. These days thanks to copyright laws what is defined as your property and what is the game developer’s property has now become very clear.  Now, I know this sounds crazy but you don’t actually own anything on that shelf behind you. Sad isn’t it? It depressed me something fierce when I learned my 50 something xbox360 game collection which I love to death actually isn’t mine.

See Look at all those games you wished you actually owned

Ok let me go into a bit more detail after that massive shock to your system. What you actually own in that collection is: the game case, the actual physical disk, the game manual (if there is one) and any collector’s memorabilia you have. What you don’t own is the software on the game disk. So the main reason you bought all that crap is so you could play a game and you don’t even own it. This is such a radical thought to consider, but in reality what you actually bought was a ‘licence’ or a ‘right’ to play the game you bought.

Don’t you miss the days when editing games was as simple as opening the game code and modding it yourself? I know I do, before copyright anyone could freely copy, modify or sell content created by others. I remember sitting down and modding ‘The Ultimate Doom’ on my first Windows 95 computer. It wasn’t hard with ID software practically giving away modding tools, so that anyone with some computer knowledge could Mod the game to their will. These days there are still programs you can do this with but legally unless the code is freeware or shareware. However, for big AAA titles such as Call of Duty or Halo editing the code and putting it online is 100% Illegal.

Countries like the US have set up things like the DCMA to crack down on game modders that violate intellectual property agreements. This isn’t limited to software either; it also includes people who chip their consoles to play pirated games. In 2005 a 22 year old Cambridge man was convicted and sentenced to 140 hours community service and for selling chipped xbox’s and pirated games for cheap. This is the first conviction made since the EU Copyright Directive was brought in in 2003. ( Writer). I know this seems like he got off light but this is one of many examples where the pirate has been caught.

In the end, Copyright is there to protect the legal owners of an idea. There will always be pirates though that will try and get the idea or information for free. Now this is a bad thing in general but to be honest how much of the music in your itunes library do you actually own? How many movies do you legit have on DVD? How many games on your PC did you actually purchase? If you answered all to any of these questions I guarantee you are lying to yourself.

Reference List: Writer. (2005). Man Convicted for Chipping Xbox. Available: Last accessed 23/03/2013.

Mitew, T 2013 Watch, but don’t touch! Copyright, ownership structures and industry control, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered on 18th March

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