UIC Review of Intellectual Property Law


Neha Ahuja


This article considers the current licensing regime used to control the exploitation of copyright protected works within the online interactive entertainment sector—particularly virtual worlds including multiplayer online games—to further author new copyrightable works. This article aims to identify the gaps that have arisen on account of the nature of these subsequently authored works and the potential for their exploitation under the said licensing regime. Users and the proprietors of virtual worlds often end up in conflict over the monetization and commercialization of user generated content on account of contradictory yet overlapping rights created by copyright law when controlled by contract law. This article briefly looks at the reasons behind these conflicts and the extent to which, if at all, the practice of law regulates them, for better or for worse. To facilitate this, after a detailed introduction to virtual worlds, the related intellectual property rights laws contained in them and user generated content, a study of copyright law and contract law in relation to works falling within the realm of these two principles has been used to deliberate the role of End User License Agreements in curtailing and controlling user generated content. The resulting analysis will be used to arrive at possible resolutions, in the form of consumer protection laws, for the issues inherent in this licensing regime. Research for the above theory has focused on the laws of and practices in the United Kingdom while drawing inspiration from a more active jurisdiction in this field of law and commerce, the United States of America, wherever the author deemed fit and relevant. There has also been a personal, in-depth discussion with a well-known former video game developer to understand the evolution of the industry and its impact on the development of the laws surrounding it.