Why hello there Reddit. I usually spend my time over at /r/gamedev hosting a weekly AMA, informing developers of their rights, how intellectual property works, and a plethora of other things. I did an AMA last year that went really well and I can't wait to do it again now.

My Proof:

My website

My twitter

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this post creates an attorney/client relationship. The only advice I can and will give in this post is GENERAL legal guidance. Your specific facts will almost always change the outcome, and you should always seek an attorney before moving forward. I'm an American attorney licensed in New York. And even though none of this is about retaining clients, it's much safer for me to throw in: THIS IS ATTORNEY ADVERTISING. Prior results do not guarantee similar future outcomes.

EDIT: Have a quick 330 meeting, then will be back to answer every single question just like last year. I'm usually the one showing up too late to an AMA to get something answered, so no worries of that here! (unless it's a repeat...I need to sleep sometime)

EDIT 2: Dammit, I meant thieves AND bullies. And you guys may win the war on answering every question, but I'm trying! Will do more in the morning as well after I am done tonight. And always feel free to email me at [email protected] if I don't get to you here.

Comments: 1633 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

cahaseler827 karma

Big fan of your regular posts in gamedev, welcome back to IAMA.

If you had one piece of advice for people looking to publish a videogame, what would it be?

VideoGameAttorney1117 karma

Thanks for reading! I usually give this checklist for people seriously looking to make a game. Remember, in the eyes of the law there are no hobbyists. Even if you don't charge for your game, you're potentially as liable for issues as EA or Blizzard:

  • Form a company (LLC is my usual preference)
  • Get proper contractor agreements and/or partnership agreements. This is SO important and the number one reason people come to me panicked. Without an agreement, the person you're paying for art or code or whatever RETAINS OWNERSHIP OVER IT, even after you pay! Don't let them hold your game hostage down the road.
  • Trademark your company name
  • Trademark your game names
  • Submit copyrights on your works
  • Get a terms of service and privacy policy - ESPECIALLY if your game targets children
  • Have an attorney look over your game and company specifically and see what else you may need.

massivecreature272 karma

Let's say I follow all of this advice and also end up patenting a couple of new ideas. Could you please give a very rough estimate of what my budget should be for the processes above, in total? (For example, are we talking $1000 or $10000?) Thank you for sharing your knowledge here!

VideoGameAttorney536 karma

I probably can't give specific prices here, but under "membership" on my website I offer some cheaper bundles for startups. I know for the list above at most firms it will be about 10 grand, I try to keep it closer to 3. Government fees are a bitch in some states, but we really do try to always do a flat fee, work within your budget, and never charge for phone calls or emails as opposed to everyone else that does.

brandon948408 karma

The phone calls and emails part makes me really like your approach to your business.

Good for you.

VideoGameAttorney532 karma

Thanks! I used to work in gamedev, and we were afraid to call our attorney because every phone call was at least a hundred dollars. That will never be the case with my firm.

BioGenx2b226 karma

Just reading this leads me to believe that you truly understand not just your customers' legal needs, but the best way to enable them following that path and moving forward with building their product. You sound like you actually care about your clients and want them to succeed, not just "clock-in clock-out paycheck."

The world needs more lawyers like you and I hope your business grows tremendously.

VideoGameAttorney183 karma

I really appreciate the kind words! I'm not alone in looking out for the little guy, but always nice to hear encouraging words.

agaetisbyrjun2297 karma

What made you want to switch from gamedev to the legal side of the industry?

VideoGameAttorney614 karma

I wanted to drive a porsche. But then I started helping all you jerks pro bono and still have to hitchhike to work (not really).

I just always enjoyed the law, and really felt at home here. I also am one of those annoying bleeding heart liberals, so I like to be able to help when I can, while still earning a living.

ccmulligan33 karma

Hi, speaking as another attorney who tries not to take cases on flat fees...

Do you find that the time you save in simplifying billing by using a flat-fee structure justifies the potential liabilities, including having to return a flat fee you have in your contract as "earned" because a client, filing a grievance, has alleged you did not do anything to actually earn your flat fee, or the situation where you took a case for a low fee thinking it would be simple enough only to have it balloon into massive litigation for which you are not contractually forbidden from taking on a larger fee?

wanderingtroglodyte33 karma

Just a guess, as another attorney, would be that his contracts specifically outline that he does not do litigation without a separate contract.

At least that would be my assumption with the discounts off of other legal services.

VideoGameAttorney39 karma

That's exactly right. Sorry I missed the question!

derpaherpasaurus66 karma

How do games like Cave Story fit into this checklist? i.e. all code, assets, and so on were created by one person, the game was self-published and (as far as I know) didn't have any trademarks, copyright, TOS? I'm talking about the original 2004 release, not the remakes.

Was Pixel in any risk releasing a game under those kinds of conditions?

VideoGameAttorney103 karma

I can't speak on specific situations, but if you are releasing without IP protection and a terms of service/privacy policy, you are absolutely taking a big risk.

MChainsaw19 karma

Is this checklist applicable to any country, in a general way at least? Considering there are differing laws and such.

VideoGameAttorney44 karma

In a general way, yes. Some countries have very different rules, but that said I know attorneys in most. So you can feel free to shoot me a message as needed for an introduction.

VideoGameAttorney2 karma

In a general way, yes. Some countries have very different rules, but that said I know attorneys in most. So you can feel free to shoot me a message as needed for an introduction.

hugganao14 karma

How about releasing an app in an android platform using android developer studios?

How does Google handle the legal issues of apps? Do they just leave it to the devs to deal with any legal troubles and pull the app from their marketplace?

VideoGameAttorney23 karma

Yes, they won't help ya.

58time500 karma

If I want to become a video game attorney, do I put all my skill points in Speech or just grind intelligence up? Do you have a build that I can use?

VideoGameAttorney485 karma

Always take the speech skill. Any DM not utilizing it is a DM I don't want to play with.

_Fang415 karma

What do you think about the current state of the esports scene? I see you talk about this on your Twitter from time to time, but am interested in something slightly lengthier/more in-depth.
(Asking this as someone who casually follows League's scene, but has little knowledge of how it all works for the players and everyone else involved.)

VideoGameAttorney991 karma

The eSports scene is a complete mess unfortunately, but everyone in it can't see it. There are some absolutely awesome owners and managers, but there are a lot of shady ones too. I get a lot of emails from players saying they've not been paid 90% of what they are owed.

The main issue is players are told not to get attorneys, and there are no agents looking out for players. Basically, until it is run like a professional sport, there will be no "fix." Peyton Manning doesn't negotiate his own contract with the Broncos. His agent does it, and then his attorney looks it all over. In eSports, we have players earning millions, but just signing whatever the hell is in front of them. It causes a LOT of issues and theft.

esportslaw798 karma

I got pinged to this about 3 times, so figured I'd add my two cents. Before I do, I just want to say that Ryan is the man. Loving reading this AMA, and all of his others for that matter.

Quick background on me: I maintain a full-time legal practice exclusively in esports law (meaning I represent teams, players, tournament organizers, and other third parties in the space).

I see the esports space a little differently, but agree with many of Ryan's core points (from this comment and those below). There are definitely major issues, but I think people are often too quick to paint "esports" with one broad brush when in reality each ecosystem is incredibly different from both a business and legal perspective. I've worked with people/entities in virtually every major title (League, Dota2, CSGO, COD, HOTS, Smite, etc.), and each scene is a little different. Some scenes are plagued by corrupt teams. Some have to deal with disorganized tournament providers. And some have more sophisticated issues (League is a good example).

The industry standard contracts are not great, but again, they vary wildly by game. In some esports it's not uncommon to see a 2 page agreement that most certainly came from google. In others, the contracts were clearly drafted by lawyers to be incredibly one-sided. This is actually the lawyer's job in most cases - to represent their clients best interests. But the huge flaw in esports (which is consistent across every game) is that players generally don't have representatives to push back. The unfair deal gets signed, and the team will have all the leverage. As Ryan says, Peyton Manning doesn't negotiate his own contract. But let's be real - even a third stringer playing for the minimum NFL salary isn't negotiating his own contract. They have a lawyer, a manager, and an agent. They have advocates on advocates fighting to get them fair terms, and this is in a system where collective bargaining has already guaranteed them a certain minimum level of fairness.

This lack of representation is actually so problematic that I've started shifting to representing more teams than players because I can have a larger impact on the disparity (I know that sounds bizarre, but bear with me...). When you represent the player, even if you fight for hours to get them fair deal terms, the other players on their team will almost always just sign the original, slanted version. By working with teams I've been able to sell them on the concept of proposing initial deal terms that reflect the ending point of the negotiations that can and should happen, but seldom do. I think there is a common misconception throughout the industry that team owners are evil and out to screw players. From my experience, that really isn't the case. When I describe these issues to teams and walk them through my various player contract templates, pointing out opportunities to make deal terms more favorable to teams yet explaining why I haven't drafted it that way, they almost always come on board. Also, when they don't, I'm under no obligation to continue to work with them - the beauty of private practice.

As for the prospect of creating an esports union (discussed in depth in some comments below), this is something I've written/spoken about a great deal in the past. I talked about this a while ago when I was on First Blood (go to about 49:30), and wrote a white paper discussing the issue in more depth for those who are interested. Personally, I feel this topic is so important that I’m hesitant to cheapen it with a TL;DR. But, if I must, I’d say that a union would absolutely help prevent/resolve some of the more problematic situations that arise in the industry and will eventually be formed, but I don’t think now is the right time because it would be too expensive and complex for the current ecosystem. That being said, there are interim steps that can and should be taken.

VideoGameAttorney396 karma

There's not a single attorney I trust more when it comes to eSports than Bryce here, so pay attention!

Kanthes214 karma

I bet it doesn't help that professional players are often young adults without a lot of life experience. I guess the same goes for sports too!

VideoGameAttorney307 karma

Absolutely. But in sports, there's a union protecting them. Here, they are bullied and scared into not talking to attorneys. I've offered a lot of pro bono help, just because I'm a fan, and most think they are being "rude" having an attorney look over their stuff.

suugakusha106 karma

So honestly, what would it take for esports members to form a union like other athletes?

VideoGameAttorney168 karma

The players to want to. I represent a lot of the top players, and they have no interest. They are afraid of the backlash from the teams and the community for being "difficult."

edit: /u/esportslaw gave a much more thorough answer. We don't agree on every bit, but it's a very good read.

SpykePine61 karma

Wow, they're looked at as rude? That is a mentality that needs to change. That sounds like something perpetuated from the top to try and impinge on their rights.

VideoGameAttorney49 karma


freakorgeek47 karma

Have you ever looked at a contract and advised an athlete against signing? What was on the contract?

VideoGameAttorney85 karma

Of course, all the time. They are usually VERY one sided in favor of the team with how they start out. There are twenty clauses on things I'd not let my client sign. I'll write an article on it soon.

BigPersia339 karma

Which major video game company(s), if any, do you think act ethically and in good faith? And why? In reverse, are there any that you think are particularly "evil"?

VideoGameAttorney723 karma

Popular opinion has been pretty shockingly accurate about what game companies I would consider "evil." You don't have to look too far through my Twitter or previous AMA's to see who I personally don't like. On the flip side, I've found the guys at gog.com and Blizzard/Activision to be some of the most pleasant in the industry. Blizzard/Acti could have destroyed a lot of Dota 2, but instead let it survive basically intact. They're also usually great to negotiate with/against. Plus, I just tried heroes of the storm last night for the first time and it ain't half bad.

Bertonicus533 karma

See i told you! Asshole :D

VideoGameAttorney475 karma

Haha, don't downvote this fool. He is the unlucky bastard that has to support my Riki picking ;)

igotsmeakabob1151 karma

He keeps saying it won't replace DotA for us but I know that it's gonna steal DotA time :(

VideoGameAttorney82 karma

You just hate it because you have a harder time killstealing me in heroes.

IKingJeremy239 karma

What are the most common misconceptions you come across regarding Intellectual Property Rights?

VideoGameAttorney521 karma

The biggest one is that people think it's "fair use" if they don't charge for their game. That is completely wrong. Fair use, while it may exist for some, does not exist for indie devs. It's not a "right," it's a "defense." That means you have to prove it in court.

So, fine, make a storm troopers game and claim fair use. Have fun spending six figures losing that fight to Disney in court. I scream from the rooftops in every AMA I do over at /r/gamedev, but I still get fifteen emails a week from people surprised they are being sued over their free game.

jackwoww202 karma

It's also an incredibly complex defense with a seven factor analysis, IIRC. Many of which can be totally subjective.

VideoGameAttorney242 karma

Spot on. It's really worth pretending it doesn't exist, unless you have a bottomless legal budget or inhouse counsel on salary.

Holy_City42 karma

Doesn't the content owner have to prove damages? What damages can they claim if the developer isn't making any revenue?

VideoGameAttorney224 karma

Diluting their trademark. Your inferior product made someone confused about the source, and now they think I sell inferior products.

Fidodo26 karma

What about fair use for parodies? Can I call the game "Storm Poopers"?

VideoGameAttorney27 karma

Same answer. Don't do it.

swirlyglasses1233 karma

Did you watch Better Call Saul and do you play Ace Attorney? :D

VideoGameAttorney436 karma

Better Caul Saul may be the best show ever made, and I quote Phoenix on my firm's website ;)

_heidin43 karma

I fucking love you now

VideoGameAttorney43 karma

Haha, thank you <3

_heidin22 karma

Im a silly fan of Ace Attorney, now you're Phoenix irl version for me

VideoGameAttorney24 karma

An honor!

IKingJeremy171 karma

Do you play video games yourself?

If so, what types of games do you like to play?

VideoGameAttorney319 karma

Oh allllll the time. I actually just made a twitch channel because I'm also a ham: http://www.twitch.tv/videogameattorney

I play Dota 2 mostly, but I'm a monster and play Riki. Other than that, I dabble in most of the games that come and go with everyone else. WoW probably ate the most time out of my life to date.

doesnt_sell_drugs286 karma

So you're telling me you are a lawyer AND you play Riki? There is a special kind of hell just for you sir.

VideoGameAttorney319 karma

I also random, because I need to know what's in the box, then REPICK Riki. So I don't have friends anymore.

lula2488170 karma

What mild inconvenience WOULD you wish on your worst enemy?

VideoGameAttorney581 karma

That they would enter every group conversation just as someone said a hilarious joke. So they're too embarrassed to ask for it repeated, but they know they missed something awesome.

Seraph_Grymm120 karma

Personally I would wish that someone would start to tell what seems like a REALLY good and long joke, but they get distracted and never deliver the punch line.

VideoGameAttorney141 karma

Haha, that may be even better. "Never hearing a punchline."

i_bite_right161 karma

I know you probably can't give any specific details, but what type of bullying, exactly, exists in the game industry?

VideoGameAttorney448 karma

The biggest thing I see day to day is trademark trolling. To briefly clarify, trademarks are what protect your name or logo. They are basically your "brand." They are also broken up into classes of goods, so Apple brand computers is fine, but they don't own Apple brand apples.

That said, casino games (ie. slot machines) are the same class of goods as video games. Because of that, many of the larger casino companies will send around a plethora of cease and desists to game developers who make small apps. Those demand letters will say, "give us twenty grand or we will file this lawsuit." The developer is a smalltime guy who has made 25 bucks off his app, so he rightfully freaks out. The casino then says, "Okay, we will make the settlement only 2 grand, but you have to sign this consent judgment saying you did infringe."

That happens the majority of the time, and now we have all these judgments saying apps infringed on slot machines. They shouldn't be considered infringing, but these companies have built up their own bad precedent to use on future cases. It's absolutely insane, and the worst thing I see going on currently that I can talk about.

browneagle44146 karma

What's a good, succinct answer on why you shouldn't pirate, so I can post to every troll I see saying how they'd never pay for a game again?

VideoGameAttorney445 karma

You know, I typed up a whole legal answer as to the ramifications, but I'll tell you the real world answer instead. By pirating games you are ruining the industry. I don't mean, "oh no, EA is going to go out of business if you don't buy the game," I mean you are forcing these game companies to reship the same crappy game each year with a plethora of paid DLC because there's no money in selling actual good games anymore. Free to play has completely replaced "pay sixty bucks and own a game," because of the pirates. What's more, the people buying those crappy games or addicted to candy crush are usually the ones who don't know how to pirate. So taking away the pirate community, which is also usually the most dedicated gaming community, means no one will make games for that community anymore. So while I had Final Fantasy 7 as a kid, my children will get Final Fantasy: The Search for DLC

EDIT: To clarify, I am not defending the new terrible business models or saying they are ONLY because of piracy. But piracy certainly did not help.

ManOfLaBook125 karma

How did you get into this lawyering niche? Is it trademark specialty?

VideoGameAttorney180 karma

It's a lot of areas of law within the context of games, with trademarks certainly being my main component. As for how I got into this industry, I got caught up a bit in the Candy Crush debacle and just kind of stayed. I've been a gamer forever, and am lucky to be doing something I love. Can read about the Candy Crush stuff here: http://www.gamefront.com/king-candys-attempt-at-crushing-the-saga-trademark/

R3miel7114 karma

What's the most underhanded tactic you've seen by a game company?

creative_dreams415 karma

What is their most underhanded tactic? Former games industry studio head here. I will share an answer to this since I am not going to get in trouble for doing it, and because I am no longer reliant on keeping the dogs happy. I hope that is ok, because this is something developers seriously need to be aware of.

Video game publishers have a history of rather nasty hostile takeovers, when they are interested in acquiring a developer instead, but do not want to pay. I ran a game studio for a decade and this happened three times, each time we stopped it from happening and each time it was a nightmare. It reached the point that we knew it was coming and took action to keep them from being in a position to do it...but it causes massive problems and is seriously fucked up.

Here is how it works.

  1. Publishers get developers under contract where most the revenue for the company comes from the publisher. Game devs will try to have multiple publishers because having just one is a recipe for anal, if you know what I mean. Even that is not enough..
  2. Publisher then gets everyone busy and right at the point that things are going strong, and they ascertain the developer likely has no other development contracts incoming, they stop production (it is typical for devs to seek projects closer to contract completion dates and not early in long term deals).
  3. With production stopped, the developer now realizes his funding is also grinding to a halt (dev payments are based on deliverables and milestones typically).
  4. The dev panics about laying off his team and with hundreds of thousands of dollars burning monthly, the dev tries to find a new contract, Time is too short and this often means a massive loss in company value is impending.
  5. the publisher then swoops in with an offer to "buy" the developer for salaries and signing bonus, or some other lowball offer, in the guise of "saving them". The devs don't realize this is a standard move, and will sometimes bite.

We found alternative contracts and ran the company lean, and set aside back up funds for a rainy day to stop this from happening. Many are not so lucky.

When you hear of game studios getting bought this is sometimes the way it got done. I know of three in California right now, who work on the biggest mmo's and games in the biz, who had this happen and to this day they think they got saved by their publisher. they didn't. They got totally shafted.

This type of process can be used to renegotiate contracts and the existing deal as well. Of all the problems we dealt with as a game developer the hostile takeover crap was the worst. Without great attorneys, and our advisory board of industry leaders there, we would have been screwed. Get a great lawyer. Get great advisers. They will help you save your asses.

With that said, many problems do not come from the publishers or the like. They come from not having that list that videogameattorney posted as things to get done, especially shareholder or partnership agreements. Failures often come from the inside, when either money comes in, the big money, or when money struggles happen. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you follow this attorneys advice in his post above about company structure documents etc...


VideoGameAttorney97 karma

Really great reply, hope it gets further top. Sorry for your troubles :/ Wish I could help.

VideoGameAttorney70 karma

Man, I wrote like three first sentences and then realized I'm just going to get myself in trouble. See the casino answer above. But you know the companies that steal ideas in this industry, and you know the guys who trademark words like sag-


Zwitterions84 karma

Which law school did you attend if you don't mind me asking?

I'm not here to judge you, just genuinely curious.

VideoGameAttorney218 karma

New York Law School. The perk is sometimes people think it's NYU, but in reality, it's waaaaay down the rankings. That said, they were the only school with video game law as a class, and I got to study under Gregory Boyd who may be the most respected game attorney around. So, win/win. Plus, NYC has pizza that won't allow me to move anywhere else.

WhyIsMyCoffeeCold59 karma

Since we briefly sniped at each other....

My dad actually is a NY Law School alumnus (Class of '77) and is in the twilight of his career. He spent the majority of his career doing intellectual property/copyright in publishing and is looking for something to get involved in pro bono after he retires in a few years. Anything he could possibly get involved in?

Oh, and are you looking for paralegals? :-D

VideoGameAttorney49 karma

No sniping, only love! Haha, feel free to shoot me an email :)

WhyIsMyCoffeeCold1 karma

Pssst, NJ has pizza that's just as good and we're a cheaper place to live :-)

VideoGameAttorney5 karma

How. Dare. You.

Pester_Stone0 karma

This is the most surprising answer of this AMA. You went to a school ranked THAT low and you are doing what you are doing. You won the lottery.

VideoGameAttorney1 karma

No luck in life, all busting your ass, networking, and hard work. Going to Harvard doesn't automatically make you a good attorney.

sonofarex82 karma

How are these mobile games getting away with blatant ripoffs of other games and IPs?

I see so many advertised that are a simple card game that doesn't seem to even try to hide the fact that their characters are almost a pixel by pixel recreation of a pokemon/dota/league character

VideoGameAttorney84 karma

They usually fly under the radar, until they don't. Apple won't enforce your rights for you, so these companies have to do it themselves. They do, I promise, and I wouldn't risk stealing any IP yourself. As for the thieves in the appstore, until the submission process gets more intelligent a lot of companies will just flood it to make a few quick bucks before they get kicked out. Usually from other countries that are hard or impossible to collect from.

Z13J72 karma

What are the pros and cons of forming an LLC outside of your state of residence? I vaguely remember you answering this question in one of your /r/gamedev AMAs, but I couldn't find the specific one. I realize that it is important to be protected via an LLC, but the annual minimum franchise tax in California is $800, which is quite a bit for a guy who just enjoys making games as a hobby.

Thanks again for doing these (even if you are a filthy Riki player).

VideoGameAttorney105 karma

The answer used to be: "Go to Delaware (or a few others) and save a boatload." But California (and the other expensive ones) got wise to that game and have a foreign entity tax now. So if you do incorporate outside of California, but are working from California, you're going to be paying just about the same. Could be more, could be less, but that's unfortunately going to be a question for your accountant. What I know, which isn't taxes, is that the corporate attorneys I work closely with almost always recommend staying within state.

mjauz64 karma

Does the chewbacca defence work?

VideoGameAttorney98 karma


lulaalt61 karma

What is your dream video game?

VideoGameAttorney156 karma

Virtual reality first person MOBA. It will happen.

simplyOriginal163 karma

So.. LARP? lol

VideoGameAttorney160 karma

hahahaha, I never thought of that. Guess it's time to make Ms. Video Game Attorney think I'm an even bigger loser...

nowaygreg51 karma

What class do you wish you took in law school? I'm about to start my 2L year and I've been asking every lawyer this since I have no idea what to take

VideoGameAttorney129 karma

Ones that don't take attendance so you can go out and network or work and learn how the legal profession actually works ;)

Take that, law school!

CountedCrow50 karma

So roughly how many Phoenix Wright jokes do you get every week?

VideoGameAttorney49 karma

Haha, quite a few. But I love em

MrManson9946 karma

Do you think that people should be able to take action against scammers in games?

VideoGameAttorney88 karma

There are so many kinds of scammers that it's hard to give a black and white answer, but I think down the road virtual property may start being treated more akin to real property. Especially if you saw what people spend on these games. Jeeeeez.

Wakers42 karma

What do you make of developers like Fun Creators and Digital Homicide LLC abusing the copyright system on youtube to take down critical videos?

Where do you stand on youtube critics in general?

VideoGameAttorney93 karma

Abuse of the DMCA should absolutely be dealt with more harshly. I am not speaking on those two companies, but I mean it as a generality.

jackwoww34 karma

Hi, I graduated from law school in 2012 and I'm interested in starting up my own practice. However, I only have experience in litigation (mostly doc review). I'm worried that I don't know enough, will make a mistake and have my license suspended.

1) How legitimate are my fears?

2) Can you recommend any helpful books, websites or other resources to help get started, write contracts, etc?

3) How do I get people to pay me? (lots of people have asked for help, but haven't offered any pay) Can I act as an agent and take, say 10%?

VideoGameAttorney60 karma

I'm a young blood too, which helps with this industry. I've had a lot of people come my way and leave their attorney with 30 years experience, all because they don't have to explain the technology or their game to me like they would elsewhere. I've handled just about every legal crisis there is at this point, and represent some of the biggest names around, all by just getting out there and doing it. You're right to be nervous about screwing things up, and I was lucky to have a lot of really amazing attorneys always willing to lend a hand when needed.

Agent rules are pretty harsh in most places, and I've not heard any attorneys doing that around here, but you can look into it. Getting paying clients is the trick, but that's the risk of starting any business. I get about 20 emails a day with resumes or people asking to join my firm though, because game law sounds fun. Just know what you're getting into and understand the risks associated.

LeUrban34 karma

Do you think Nintendo had the right to get angry about Flappy Bird's pipes? There are many different things I heard that caused the developer to remove it, and this was one of them.

VideoGameAttorney89 karma

I am not allowed by my ethics board to give specific legal advise or comment on things that people may use for that, so I'll just say generally that any rights holder to an asset can absolutely (and has to in some cases) enforce their intellectual property rights. If someone steals your assets, geddem.

goodnewsjimdotcom33 karma

Do you know people think you're cool here? I'm a video game programmer/designer and you've sent me private messages helping me in the past.

VideoGameAttorney23 karma

Appreciate it, and always happy to help!

yoyodaw32 karma

Phoenix Wright is that you?!?!?

VideoGameAttorney51 karma


maddic226 karma

Is it true that Let's Plays are technically illegal, but the game industry is indifferent? (due to the mutual benefit of Let's Plays getting tons of views)

VideoGameAttorney24 karma

They are certainly infringing as it stands now, but things will get sorted soon. Either through litigation or legislation. Too much money there not to.

KrustX24 karma

Currently studying Law but outside USA. Becoming a videogame attorney would make the 12-year old me very happy and proud. How is the videogame law scene outside US? South East Asia to be specific. Any experience? connection or anything?

VideoGameAttorney50 karma

The video game law scene anywhere is going to be incredibly difficult to break into. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've gotten hundreds upon hundreds of emails and resumes this past year since people have realized this is a legitimate area of law. Standing out from the crowd is the challenge. I suggest really becoming an expert in privacy law.

KrustX18 karma

What other law niches do you see would boom the next coming years? I just really dislike criminal litigation and pencil pushing for corporates.

VideoGameAttorney53 karma

Privacy! Privacy experts will be needed soon, definitely.

vallsin24 karma

Will I go to jail for downloading fifa 15 from torrent? Edit- 8 hours gone and I'm still alive and in my country. What you say to that /u/NSA_Chatbot and/u/videogameattorney

VideoGameAttorney75 karma

You? Yes. I'm watching you.

Luzinia22 karma

If you had to choose between being able to learn how to do coding to make a game for a console, or stick to your current job, which would you choose and why?

VideoGameAttorney67 karma

I have no talent, so I went into law. I have always been a gamer, but I can admit I don't have the mathematical mind necessary to create a piece of art like the guys I represent. So, to answer you question, my current job ;)

InfinitePool21 karma

What's your thoughts on the Hex vs MTG case? Who do you think is likely to win?

VideoGameAttorney44 karma

Can't speak on that due to involvement with a party. Apologies!

massivecreature17 karma

I'm developing a collectible, "living" card game that I hope to print first on paper and then publish as an iPad app. Are there legal considerations I should know specific to this type of game (e.g. should I patent new game mechanics)? Also, can you please recommend where to find a good artist contract? Lastly, is it necessary or advisable to hire a copyright attorney? Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it!

VideoGameAttorney29 karma

I can't give specific advise or the bar association will send a hitman after me, but generally you will have the same concerns as most game devs that I listed above. As for a place to find a contract, the only place worth using is a law firm. I can tell when you've used a google template, and I can tear it apart. NDA's are boiler plate, feel free to use templates on those, but freelancer agreements are NOT.

And more importantly, without a proper agreement the contractor keeps ownership over what they made. Even if you paid them for it!

ViviMan6517 karma

I gotta ask, as a law student in New York (and about to take the last ever old format New York Bar exam), how did you come by to be a video game attorney?

I think we both know the general idea, with IP law and what not. But I guess what I'm really looking at is:

  • did you take the patent bar;
  • how is the work load of a video game attorney compared to a Top 100 Firm associate/public interest/private practice small firm;
  • what did you think you were going to be practicing when you graduated and eventually admitted to practice;
  • what was your degree in undergrad for the patent bar qualification, and;
  • what was your professional path that lead to being a "video game attorney"?

Also, what did you do to prep for the NY bar (or other bars if you're jurisdiction admitted), and what advice do you have for upcoming attorneys in New York--those who are going into private practice and, if you can relate or give pointers, to those going into public interest areas?

VideoGameAttorney20 karma

No patent bar. Need a science undergrad and I did history. This kind of law is a lot of fun, certainly, but also an intense amount of work. I get a plethora of people asking how to join the industry, but it's so flooded with new comers that you really just have to find a way to stick out. I'm lucky to have gotten in early, and that I bust my butt networking.

OutsmartBullet15 karma


Let's say a game bar wants to open. They have a safe with cartridges in the back room. Let's keep it simple and say it's all SNES (IE before CD Keys)

Available to patrons are emulation machines with backups of the games in the safe available to play.

The machines are networked and configured such that ONE iteration of each game can be played for each physical copy owned by the store.

Would this legally fly? What considerations would there be for this kind of arrangement?

VideoGameAttorney35 karma

Cant do specific questions here, I apologize.

C0ntents9 karma

I have been following (previously dealt with) Tim Langdell's USPTO claims for a few years. I've come to the conclusion that the USPTO is broken, since he has managed to delay every case while representing himself. What are your thoughts on the current USPTO system?

VideoGameAttorney24 karma

While the USPTO has a lot to catch up, I have to say they are one of the most "current" government bodies in terms of technology, and every singly employee I've dealt with there (over 100) has been absolutely amazing.

That's the only government body that doesn't make me want to jump through the phone and kill someone. That said, the classifications of goods, opposing process, and awareness of current tech trends needs to be looked at a bit harder as a whole.

thejdobs9 karma

How do you see Digital Rights Management and the gaming industry progressing in the next few years? Can we expect to see more strict controls on who actually "owns" the game and how it can be shared among consumers? Also, do you see Lets Plays becoming more of a concern as these companies seek to have tighter control over their games and products?

VideoGameAttorney9 karma

Two different areas, but I think we will continue to not own any game we buy. As it stands, you are licensing most games, not owning them, and I'm sure that trend will grow.

As for let's play, that is going to be a war, and requires a LOT more time than I have to get into it. Definitely an article I will work on though.

chongoshaun3 karma

I'm affraid to ask this question in /r/legaladvice because they tend to me kind of mean over there, but I'll ask you now that I have a chance. I notice lawyers always write a disclaimer about how they are not your lawyer and to get a real lawyer, etc. Is this something that is mandatory for any licensed attorney? Does the Bar association actually follow up on this type of thing and punish you guys for not having the disclaimer or is it more about personal liability? I've just always been curious so thanks in advance for your answer.

VideoGameAttorney4 karma

Yes it is ABSOLUTELY mandatory. I think it's ridiculous. Although I probably shouldn't even say that, haha

a_posh_trophy2 karma

Can you get developers to stop screwing us over with expensive DLC and preorder 'bonuses'?

VideoGameAttorney3 karma

Ha, I'll do my best. Stop buying them!

Wakers2 karma

get informed and protect themselves in an industry of thieves and bullies

I am really not going to trust much that comes from a lawyer when their introductory statement sounds like a sales pitch.

What's the worst you've seen from someone working in the industry?

VideoGameAttorney22 karma

Actually, the worst thing I've seen in the industry is -

*To unlock this answer, please wait 23:54 hours. Or, you can buy 5 answer coins for only $14.99 and hear it now!

No, but seriously, the real bad stuff never makes the headlines. A lot of the bullying going on (frivolous lawsuits from major companies against indie developers) never makes headlines, because the settlements will always have an NDA attached. That means, if the developer goes to the press about what happened, he loses his deal and can get resued. Even when you're right, it's very expensive to be sued.

The sales pitch part of my opening you referred to is about what I've done to help the dev's on reddit (and elsewhere) fight these things for cheap or free, depending on the circumstance. I have a standing offer from last year, that still exists, to respond to any and all frivolous cease and desists completely free.

Iwannayoyo2 karma

It does sound like a sales pitch, but look back at his post history and you'll see that he is extremely helpful in the gamedev community.

VideoGameAttorney2 karma

Thanks for that :) And thanks for reading!

LDShadowLord2 karma

I'm in the UK, is there anyone who does something like this in the UK or do you operate in the UK at all?

VideoGameAttorney5 karma

I do indeed work in the UK, and I know a great UK attorney as well for things requiring local assistance. Jas Purewal, best guy across the pond.

BobbyLight350Z1 karma

Do you think that the trending increase of f2p and B grade mobile games are going to negatively effect big AAA titles for consoles and computers to such an extent that the majority will either close their doors or hop on board? Do you think AAA games and/or platforms will cease to exist in the near future?

VideoGameAttorney2 karma

The younger generation doesn't have the stigma most of us did about being a "gamer," but what a "game" is has also changed to them. They are used to the DLC and expect to not get a complete game for the purchase price. Because of that, the trend will certainly continue in a way we don't like. That said, the beauty of this industry is we can't predict much about it. Virtual reality is going to change things in one way or another majorly, and I'm excited to see what kind of content comes with it.