Metagaming - Engage! Digital Law Conference

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Avoid the Metagame Trap: Understanding a Game Operator's Responsibilities …

Avoid the Metagame Trap: Understanding a Game Operator's Responsibilities

When some uses your game in ways you didn't anticipate, what level of liability do you have? What are the legal issues, including criminal issues, at play for a game operator? How liable for grey-market trade is the game owner?

This session will look at the degree to which game operators and owners are responsible for the actions of users outside the scope of intended play -- and ways to mitigate risk early on in the development timeline.

More in: Education , Business
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  • 1. Digital Law Conference: September 24 at 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. J. Michael Monahan, II, Attorney, Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson Michael H. Pinkerton, COO, Metaverse Mod Squad Neal Black, General Counsel, Live Gamer Shane McGee, Partner, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP
  • 2. Why is metagaming an important issue when discussing MMORPGs? Most MMORPG designers work within a carefully designed virtual universe, precisely balanced to give every player an equal opportunity to play and enjoy the game. Metagaming can upset that balance -- or enhance the experience -- depending on foresight of the designers and the type of metagaming at issue.
  • 3.
    • Communicating outside of a game
      • Phone calls? Instant messages? IP communication?
      • Giving away the location of another player
      • Disclosing the strength of enemy fortifications
      • Communicating across factions (e.g., WoW Horde vs. Alliance)
    • Exploits
      • Terrain glitching
      • Gold/item duping
    • Cheats and bots (example: WoWGlider)
      • Can “see” through terrain and other obstructions
      • Reflexes of a computer
      • Not subject to external “weaknesses” like other players (e.g., the need for food and sleep; school; work)
    • Gold farming
  • 4.
    • On June 26, 2009, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Culture released a joint circular prohibiting the use of virtual currency to trade in real goods and services
    • Go to: http://english.mofcom.gov.cn
  • 5.
    • Virtual Items
    • Scarcity (limited quantities or time or money)
    • Collectability
    • Ability to Display
    • User Demand
    • for
    • Real-Money
    • Trading
    • Annual market for the secondary exchange of virtual items has been estimated at over $1.8 billion worldwide
    • Itembay and ItemMania sold $974 million in virtual goods in 2006
      • Source: www.virtualgoods.com, Virtual goods in Asia: it’s even more than you think!, April 9, 2009
  • 6. Hernandez v. Internet Gambling Entertainment, Ltd.,US Dist Ct WD FL, 2007 Playfish, Ltd. v. Gosumall Digital Entertainment, US Dist Ct WD TX, 2009
  • 7.
    • Regulatory Landscape in the U.S.
      • Financial services laws
      • Illegal lotteries
      • Auction licensing
      • Income taxes (third-party information reporting)
      • Sales tax laws
      • Data security standards
      • Privacy practices
      • Export control laws
      • Unclaimed property laws
    • Other Legal Concerns:
      • Ownership of intellectual property
      • Terms of Service / EULAs
  • 8.
    • Permit publisher-sanctioned transfer of licensed rights among users
    • Be clear about ownership of virtual items / user-generated content
    • Protect against “loss of value” claims:
      • Allow for bannings, disruptions and discontinuance
      • Allow for active management of in-game economy, game play and trading
      • Disclaim any obligation to create a market in particular virtual items
      • Obtain waiver of liability for any loss of value in virtual items
    • Address RMT activities by parents and legal guardians of minors
    • Provide for fair and equitable Alternative Dispute Resolution (consider Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc ., US Dist Ct ED PA, 2006)
    • Prohibit disruptive / illegal conduct (e.g., gambling, money laundering, gold farming, etc.)
  • 9.
    • Section 230 of the CDA
      • Immunity if operator did not create or develop the offending content
    • Immunity Cases
      • Defamation ( Amazon )
      • Invasion of privacy ( Matchmaker )
      • Sexual assault ( MySpace )
    • No Immunity Case
      • Drop-down menu exception ( Roommates )
  • 10.
    • Who’s covered?
      • Sites directed to children under 13
      • Any site that collects personal info from children
    • What’s required?
      • Posted privacy policy
      • Verifiable parental consent before collecting personal info from kids
    • Maine’s Super-COPPA
      • Prohibits “predatory marketing” to minors
  • 11.
    • Digital harassment
      • Anonymous
      • Unsupervised
      • Inseparable
    • Harmful effects
      • Self-esteem to suicide
    • Legislation
      • Megan Meier Cyberbulling Prevention Act (Pending)
      • Empowering school administrators
  • 12. Digital Law Conference: September 24 at 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. J. Michael Monahan, II, Attorney, Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson Michael H. Pinkerton, COO, Metaverse Mod Squad Neal Black, General Counsel, Live Gamer Shane McGee, Partner, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP