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Feature: 'Event Wrap Up - State of Play III'

In today's main Gamasutra feature, Ren Reynolds presents a wrap-up of The State of Play conference series, hosted by New York Law School, and focusing on the relationship...
In today's main Gamasutra feature, Ren Reynolds presents a wrap-up of The State of Play conference series, hosted by New York Law School, and focusing on the relationship between virtual worlds and physical world laws. In its third year, the conference tackles both the really big questions of legal theory and the practical implications of what cyber-law means to game developers, players and everyone else. In this extract from his article, Reynolds looks at some of the obvious IP issues touched on at the conference: "Discussing the highly contentious Marvel / NCSoft case (Marvel sued Cryptic Studios and NCSoft in November of 2004, claiming that the City of Heroes MMORPG allows players to imitate comic book characters owned by Marvel), panelists mused over whether character creation tools are like coloring books or an Etch-o-Sketch. Ann Bartow, from the University of South Carolina, argued that a recent case brought by Disney against a day-care center suggests that intellectual property owners seek to maximize control of their property irrespective of the scale of an alleged infringement or the tools used. The panel also discussed the use of trademark claims between companies. Several of the panel being of the view that aggressive use of trademark law is having a detrimental impact on the industry as defending a claim can suck huge amounts of project time and budget, and often services to stifle certainty rather than giving just rewards to creators - which was one of the original intentions of intellectual property law. These trends seem to spell bad news for developers. Anyone is open to an aggressive trademark case and a small developer might not survive the legal costs. Developers whose software can, even in theory, be used to create digital assets that could be seen to infringe an organizations intellectual property may also be vulnerable to legal action." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including details of a fascinating debate on whether countries should regulate MMOs and virtual world using their own laws (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).

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