Space Invaders—the video game that effectively set the interactive entertainment industry on fire—turned thirty-five this year.
And thirty-five is a magic number when it comes to copyright termination. Thirty-five is effectively Cinderella’s midnight for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of music, book, film, and video game publishers who believe they have secured the intellectual property rights to another’s work indefinitely.
What may surprise them (and you) is that in 1976 Congress amended Section 203 of the United States Copyright Act, allowing authors of works published after 1978 to reclaim the rights to their creations. And, in some instances, these rights extend to video games.
If you’ve worked in the videogame industry for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly come across legal language similar to this:
The Game and all other Intellectual Property that the Developer creates in connection with the services provided under this Agreement shall be considered work made for hire, and shall therefore be the sole and exclusive property of Publisher from the time of creation.
The decision in ReDigi v. Capitol Records probably means that you can't resell your digitally downloaded video games—but for reasons that may surprise you.
Right of Publicity in Video games
Earlier this year I discussed Keller v. EA, a right of publicity case  that was appealed by EA to the Ninth Circuit Court, primarily on the basis of a First Amendment Right to use NCAA player likenesses in their college football games. The Ninth Circuit issued its opinion yesterday, holding against EA, in what may prove to be a fatal and perhaps final blow in EA's self-proclaimed right to use sports figure likenesses in a game without express permission.
Dan Rogers is a practicing attorney within the video game and digital media industries. He’s also the author of several articles on the video game industry, technology, and digital law.