Laws affecting video games are getting complicated in the digital age. What happens, for instance, if a child downloads $1,000 worth of games on the Apple iTunes App Store without an adult’s knowledge? Well, in this case, Apple had to give credits and refunds to fend off a class-action lawsuit from angry parents.
That’s the kind of topic that will come up at the first Game Business & Legal Affairs conference at the University of California at Los Angeles on May 20. Staged by the Video Game Bar Association (VGBA), the event will focus on issues of concern to lawyers who specialize in the game business, said David Rosenbaum (pictured right), the president of the group and a game-focused attorney at the Law Offices of David S. Rosenbaum, in an interview with GamesBeat.
In 2010, Rosenbaum co-founded the VGBA with Patrick Sweeney, an attorney heading the practice at Reed Smith in Los Angeles.
“We tend to speak at other organizations, but this event can be a lot more substantive for game attorneys,” Sweeney (pictured left) told GamesBeat.
Some of the talks at the event will be useful for all lawyers, such as the “Art (and Draft) of the Deal,” “Globalization: Doing Business in Europe,” and “Intellectual Property, Patents, and Copyright Matters.”
Part of the reason that the group exists is that there are issues specific to games that keep coming up. How, for instance, do game companies comply with laws governing privacy and data protection? How can they execute virtual-goods transactions properly?
“Europe is very aggressive about making compliance happen on things like refunds for kids who buy apps without parental authorization,” Sweeney said.
And one of the perennial topics is what to do about the issue of violence in games from a legal point of view. Rosenbaum will moderate a panel on that topic with Mike Gallagher, the president of the game lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association; analyst Michael Pachter, and Paul Smith, an attorney who argued for a California law banning sales of violent video games to minors.
One of the hot topics this year is the looming approvals of laws permitting online gambling in various states in the U.S. Another one is raising money through crowdfunding, which carries with it numerous compliance requirements. Electronic Arts may very well face a class-action suit about its failure to accommodate everyone in its server-dependent game SimCity.
Lawyers will get continuing education credit for going to the event, which will be held at the UCLA School of Law. Any lawyers are welcome, as well as executives at game companies.
The group is a small one still, with a little more than 50 members. But just about every major video game company has a legal department.