Posted by: David Medina
April 10, 2015
Since the development of the micro computer, video games have become an international obsession. Although people who played video games were initially viewed in the same light as those who played Dungeons and Dragons, after just a few short years, video games became an integral part of popular culture in the United States, Korea, Japan, and countless other countries. As of today, the best estimates suggest that more than 1.2 billion people are playing video games worldwide, and about 700 million people play online games.
Just as the first international explorers brought their own cultures to the newly indigenous people as they met them, video games have been bringing the culture of the countries that produced them to new audiences. Although most people readily recognized and embraced the new cultural differences brought overseas by way of the video game, the vast majority of video game players have yet to realize that one more aspect of culture has been traveling overseas as well: the law. Although most video games sold for consoles were initially sold as goods, and not licensed to individuals, almost every online video game has been licensed, not sold. Because online video games are licensed to individuals, the game makers have been able to include binding terms of service agreements that govern the relationship between the game player and the game maker. Despite the fact that game players live in numerous countries across the globe, game makers have assumed that their terms of service agreement is enforceable and actually does govern the relationship. If terms of service agreements are binding and enforceable on game players from around the world, then it is likely possible for legal concepts from one country to be transported to another, despite the fact that the receiving country may not recognize certain legal rights. This blog post seeks to highlight some of the issues these internationally applied terms of service agreements raise.
For decades, the United States has been trying to get other countries to adopt stricter intellectual property and anti-piracy laws. And for just as many years, the United States has been ineffective at convincing its neighbors to do so. Despite all of the centralized efforts of the United States government, domestic video game manufacturers may be accomplishing that goal without officially changing international law.
Every online video game can be expected to have a term of service agreement. Examples of these agreements can be found from Blizzard, Squaresoft, Valve, and countless other game creators. All of the terms of service agreements dictate the rights of the game player, the relationship between the game player and the game maker, and how various activities of the game player affect intellectual property rights. Among other things, terms of service agreements often include substantive law provisions, procedural law provisions, and jurisdiction provisions. By including all of those provisions, game makers effectively assure that rights granted in their home country (often the United States) are recognized internationally. The following sections will discuss how terms of service agreements extend the legal effectiveness of United States law into countries that wouldn’t otherwise adhere to it. Continue reading