THE LAW IN THE WORLD OF COMPUTER GAMES

In the past, passionate computer players were socially more quirky types. Today, almost everyone is joking about something. Even if it’s just Candy Crush Soda Saga. Computer games have long since captured a wide audience and have reached the mainstream. Accordingly, interested parties can draw on a wide range of products. From a legal point of view, so-called “baller games” are always in the discussion. There is so much more that, from a legal point of view, is exciting. There are so many popular websites like InverseGamer which offers Coin master and free spins daily.

KILLER GAMES IN THE NURSERY

Computer games can be brutal. In the shooting games it is often a matter of killing the opponent more, sometimes less brutally. We have already discussed the issue of child protection elsewhere in connection with the Let’s Play platform Twitch. While in movies one speaks of a JSK classification, the child in computer games is called USK. The entertainment software Self-Control is the responsible body in Germany, which classifies computer games, but also the corresponding trailers, according to the law on the protection of minors. But how does it all work?

WHO IS THE CREATOR?

Nowadays, a modern computer game can be regarded quite easily as a work in the sense of copyright. If you look at games like the Ezio trilogy of Assassins Creed or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, you realize that the story the player experiences through the character is a work. But there’s much more to it: the graphics, the music, the lyrics and also the code.

All of these can be works in themselves, so the question of who is actually the author of the game is not so easy to answer. The manufacturer itself is at least not, because: authors can only be natural persons and not companies. From this point of view, the finished game is a complete work of individual works with different authors, who, however, give their exploitation rights to the manufacturer in full by means of the employment relationship.

NAZI SYMBOLISM

Time and again part of the debate about computer games is the handling of the Nazi era. In games like Wolfenstein, the player immerses himself in the setting of World War II. Also part of these games is the display of Nazi symbols, such as the swastika or the SS rune. According to Section 86a of the StGB, the use of unconstitutional symbols is a criminal offence. In principle, this fact is fulfilled when films, but also computer games, represent the swastika.

DEALING WITH MOVIES

Why then are there films showing flags and uniforms with these symbols? The reason is that films are considered a cultural asset, i.e. art. Therefore, they are not indexed by means of the FSK. This also applies to films that are historically incorrect, such as Iron Sky, Inglourious Basterds and the series The Man in the High Castle.

This privilege did not apply to computer games. Here manufacturers had to bring out an extra variant for Germany, in which the corresponding symbols were alienated. Thus, the swastika in the white circle on a red background usually became a simple black cross in the same color combination.

STEAM – BUY, PLAY, RESELL?

Game sleeves that break the shelves of the living rooms at home are now rather a rarity. Providers like Steam make it possible to maintain a purely virtual game library. The gamer creates an account for this, buys the game and can download it directly to his PC or console.

And what if you’re ripping through the game? In the past, the original packaging – hopefully still available – was launched on the market for used games. So far, it is not possible to resell games on the Steam platform. But that could soon change: in September 2019, a Paris court found that Steam’s terms and conditions here violated EU law. Users must be able to resell games purchased on Steam after the ruling.

 

CHILD USES PARENTS’ ACCOUNT

Things are a little different if the child does not use his own account, but that of the parents. Here it is the case that the game provider can not recognize that he is trying to conclude a contract with a child. It is the case that the child wants to enter into a contract under the name of the parents. In this case, the contract is only binding if the parents are represented by the child.

But beware: Even if the parents do not agree with the representation, there may be claims for compensation from the game provider. This is particularly relevant if the parents have breached their duty of care.