WIPO study: The legal status of video games

The World Intellectual Property Organization published a comparative study of the legal status of video games in 24 countries around the world. The study analyzes different approaches worldwide regarding legal issues relating to the protection of video games.

According to the study, video games are complex works of authorship containing multiple art forms, such as music, scripts, video, and paintings. Therefore, video games are not created as single works, but are a combination of individual elements that can each individually be protected if they achieve a certain originality and creativity. Notwithstanding the genre of the game (action, adventure, strategy, music, sports or trivia games), all video games share a common element: the computer program that runs the game.

Modern video games contain two main parts: audiovisual elements and software, which in this sector is known as game engine. As a result, video games present a number of questions related to the legal regime applicable. According to some authors, video games are essentially multimedia works that belong to the category of audiovisual works protected by copyright. On the contrary, video games should be considered to be computer programs, due to the specific nature of the works and their dependency on software for implementation. Due to these different approaches, protection differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Thus, in countries like Argentina, Canada, China, the Russian Federation or Singapore, jurisprudence and doctrine consider video games to be, predominantly, computer programs. On the other hand, countries like Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany or the USA, due to the complexity of video games, legal protection should be given separately for each element of the game, according to the specific nature of each work (i.e. graphic, visual, literary). Few countries, such as Kenya and the Republic of Korea, consider that video games are essentially audiovisual works. This does not necessarily mean that the software used in the games is not protected in these jurisdictions, but that their audiovisual elements must prevail.

Considering the importance of video game industry, WIPO suggests to consider the opportunity to undertake an international debate that could potentially lead to a regulation on the protection of video games.

Source: WIPO Study