Copyright and Paratext in Computer Gaming
Dan L. Burk
University of California, Irvine School of Law
EMERGING ETHICAL ISSUES OF LIFE IN VIRTUAL WORLDS, Charles Wankel, Sean Malleck, eds., Information Age Publishing, Forthcoming
UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2009-22
Adoption of information technologies is dependent upon the availability of information to be channeled via such technologies. On-line multiplayer role-playing games have become an important social and business feature of the Internet. The virtual worlds that game players inhabit now encompass population counts and economic activity greater than that of many nations in the physical world. The activity of players participating in an on-line game community is closely tied to paratexts that may include magazines, websites, and even devices that lie outside the formal boundaries of the game, but which are intimately bound up in the transmission of knowledge and culture surrounding the game. In this paper, I examine the legal structures that foster or inhibit particular gaming paratexts. Such laws are in some senses extrinsic to the "magic circle" of the game, but these external rules are deployed as constraints to enforce the internal logic of the game. Typically this occurs in cases where violation of the game's internal parameters would affect the owner's external marketing or business control. Commercial game developers may use copyright and related anti-circumvention laws to enforce preferred readings of the game, largely by dominating the paratexts associated with their product. Examining the control of paratexts yields important insights into the logic of legal rubrics governing on-line gaming.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: copyright, paratext, gaming capital, MMORPG, role-playing, computer games, video games, derivative work, substantial similarity, cheating
JEL Classification: O31, O32, O33, O34, L86
Date posted: May 21, 2009 ; Last revised: July 30, 2014
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