WIPO Copyright Workshop for Game Developers

1 12 2017

   Speakers and Delegates of the WIPO Copyright Seminar

       Last November 21, Grace emailed me and Alstaire that she registered us for a free two-day seminar called: Sub Regional Workshop on Living from Copyright in the Creative Industries: Business and Legal Issues for Game Developers. The said workshop was organized by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) in cooperation with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL)  with the assistance of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), Republic of Korea. The said workshop will be held at the Dusit Thani Hotel on November 28 and 29 from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

     Attached to the email is the two-day program with foreign speakers from WIPO, a former director of a game company, a copyright/licensing lawyer and others. The program was very interesting as it can help increase our knowledge about copyright, marketing and publishing our mobile game, so I was excited to attend the event but unfortunately, I had another commitment on the 29th so I cannot make it on the said date.

November 28, 2017 

     During the registration, all the participants were generously given a book: Mastering the Game: Business and Legal Issues for Video Game Developers published by WIPO (the principal author was Mr. David Greenspan, one of the speakers in the workshop) and a paper entitled : The Legal Status of Video Games: Comparative Analysis in National Approaches by various authors one of which was one of the speakers Atty. Andy Ramos. 

10:00 am  – 10:30 am   

Opening Ceremony

     Due to traffic and other reasons, few of the registered participants arrived on time, so the organizers waited for almost 10 am before the program started instead of 9:00 am. So instead of a two-hour lunch break, it was reduced to 1 hour to make up for the 1-hour loss. 

Ms. Josephine R. Santiago, LL.M

     Ms. Josephine R. Santiago, LL.M, the Director General of IPOPHL gave the first welcoming remarks. She said that it was the first time that WIPO and IPOPHL organized a copyright seminar for video game developers. Whereas a seminar for copyright music was held 2 or 3 years ago and another one was held this year. Video games are becoming more popular, due to its entertainment value,  educational value for advocacy, it also bonds family and friends and it helps lessen the stress of daily lives of many of the young and old.  It is now an opportune time for IPOPHL to promote and introduce a National Intellectual Property strategy to the youth and the private sector to promote creativity and innovation. She cited South Korea where games such as Pororo and Invention City helps promote IP to young children. 

     She reminisced the times of the pre-digital age where children of her generation would be playing with jackstones, running around and other local games such as patintero, where there were no digital games to play with. She hopes the seminar would help promote Intellectual Property (IP) to the younger generation who are exposed to new technologies as IP contributes to the well being of the country. She cited some statistics on the contribution of the creative industries in 2010 study that it created 14.4% of the total employment as compared to 11.4% in 2006. In terms of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) revenue, the value added of the software and database industry was P17.4 billion, wholesale, buying and selling was around P14.2 billion and the database processing and publishing were around P10 billion.  She cited the potential of the video industry of the country.

Mr. Jincheoi Lee

     Mr. Lee is the Director of the Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines. He cited the creative industry is growing more rapidly and the Philippines is 3rd in the e-games popularity after Russia and China; number 4 is the US. South Korea hopes to collaborate copyright works for the cultural and economic development of the world. 

Mr. Dimiter Gantchev

     Mr. Gantchev, is the Deputy Director, Copyright Infrastructure Division, WIPO, Geneva. He said that this is the first WIPO video game workshop in the country. WIPO is one of the United Nations’ specialized agencies to help countries reach international standards in IP and enable it to participate in economic development. The workshop will show why IP matters and how to exploit IP to create more jobs and generate additional income streams.

     WIPO invited government copyright officials from China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam to attend the seminar.

      Participants included game developers, lawyers, students, academe, government cultural offices and other private firms in the creative industry sector.

10:30 am – 11:55 am

Topic 1 : Setting the Scene: The Current Video Game Industry Landscape

Mr. Dimiter Gantchev

     Mr. Gantchev’s talk was mostly on the economic side of the copyright, IP, creativity, creative industries, digitization of the economy and others. The presentation was a bit abstract as he explained these topics from a macro point of view, the definition of the concepts, their role in the development of the economy, its challenges and misconceptions, relationships with one another, evolving systems, findings and conclusion. He showed some charts on the GDP and employment in the core copyright industries, different countries with different percentages in the creative industry. The correlation of digitization and quality of life in terms of GDP per capita, better life balance and human development index. 

     In summary, based on his slide presentation: IP is perceived today as an indicator of development and is linked to sustainable development. The creative industry has a significant contribution and is interconnected with the economy where it has output and employment multipliers. The creative industries contribute significantly to economic growth and feature as a strategy for national development worldwide. Video games is the fastest growing area in the creative sector with a global game audience of 2.2 to 2.6 billion people, revenue for 2017 is expected to be $108.9 billion and projected to be $128.5 billion in 2020. The Asia Pacific region is the leader in game revenues, with China garnering 25% of the world total. 

Mr. David Greenspan

     Mr. Greenspan is a former Senior Director for legal and business affairs at Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc., principal author of the WIPO publication ‘Mastering the Game’, Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, where he teaches a class in entertainment transactions.

     David showed the success of the video game industry in a relatively short period of time. However, he narrated that it was not like that at the beginning, for example, it took many years to convince the public and business people of the potential of PlayStation. The projected game revenues for 2017 surpasses the music industry and close to the revenues of the film and publishing industry. Now there are numerous universities around the world offering courses in game development; with the US having around 400 institutions teaching the course. He showed in his slides big game titles such as Fallout 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 and Call of Duty: WWII with hundreds of millions in sales within just 24 hours of release. The 24-hour revenues from some of these games even surpass the weekend revenues of popular box office films. 

     He then explained the geographic revenue share of the continents with Asia having 47% of the global market revenues, with China having the highest global share. But popular games in one country does not necessarily be as popular in another country. Each country has its own local taste, so localization of language, how the game is played need to be addressed. Countries have their own preferences on how a game is played where consoles are more popular in the US, mobile phone is more popular in China and Japan. The profile of game players has changed over the last 20 years.

     David then showed more slides showing the main players in the game industry such as the developer,    publisher, console manufacturers, other platforms (mobile) distribution players and ancillary (e-sports, licensing, VR). The top publishers, major console and mobile publishers, challenges, and issues in consoles, VR technology, Pokemon augmented reality, the rise of e-sports, new business models, legal issues, developer rights, rights of publicity and gambling issues were also briefly explained in his presentation. A short question and answer time was followed after his presentation.

12:00 am  – 1:00 pm     Lunch

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm 

Topic 2 :  Overview of the Legal Framework for Video Games

Mr. Andy Ramos Gil de la Haza

     Mr. de la Haza is a Partner and Head of the Entertainment and IP Department at Bardaji & Honrado Abogados, Madrid, Spain.

     Video game protection is through patent, trademark, trade secrets and copyright. Andy gave the definition and basic principles of trademark and copyright. For copyright, there is no formality required, and it covers the elements of video games such as music, character, maps, names, and figure like those of Lara Croft, performing actors and codes. However, there is no copyright law in the world that addresses this issue. He then explained the legal classification of video games and issues of authorship among the many people in the production of a game. If there is an issue in authorship, the remuneration follows, but in the US, other production personnel is considered as hired for pay rather than sharing in the profits. Whereas in Europe, the legal system is very protective for authors. Issues of rights can spill through the users with the growing interaction of games which is generally ruled by the terms and conditions of the game and full transfer of rights to the publisher. There are technological protection measures (TPM) in the chip hardware to control access to copyright content (piracy). Issues for TPM are also discussed whether TPM should be also used in the disc or console or can the user circumvent TPM to do acts permitted by law. 


      In conclusion, video games are self-regulated with many open issues in authorship and remuneration. There is no uniform legal classification, legislation, and protection. So Andy’s advice for those in the video game publishing, go to a specialized attorney, identify the different assets of your project, analyze how to protect it, chain of rights, register when recommended, don’t publish information unnecessarily assign or license intangible assets.

Mr. Jose Jesus Disini

     Since Andy explained the trademark and copyright definition and issues, Mr. Disini did away with most of his presentation and just showed a slide and explained how a shy macaque (monkey) took a selfie under his guidance and Mr. David Slater the photographer was sued by the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the US. The issue is who owns the copyright for the picture, which obviously does not belong to the macaque as it cannot use the money. But in the end, Mr. Slater agreed to donate 25% of future earnings from the image to protect the Indonesian macaques. 

     Mr. Disini then posed questions about the future of IP as technology advances, with artificial intelligence (AI) which may someday create its own IP with commercial value, who then owns the copyright?  We don’t know where the technology sector is headed; as technology changes the interaction changes so the law should also change with the times. 

     After the talk, there was a question and answer forum where Mr. Alvin Juban, president of the Game Developers Association of the Philippines asked about how to bring about closer cooperation of the ASEAN like the European Union in terms of copyright, since ASEAN countries don’t care much about copyright.

      Three delegates answered the question with  Ms. Soon Hyun Myung, senior program officer, copyright division of WIPO explained that Korea more than 20 years ago was also not concerned about copyright but since then it has benefitted much from copyright and that the Korean experience will be shared in the next day.

     Mr. Gantchev commented that the country should make the copyright law efficient then people will follow since it will bring the benefit to the creator and it need not be popular.

     Ms. Carmen G. Peralta of IPOPHL shared that there is something being done in terms of copyright in the ASEAN for 2016 to 2025 by having a database of copyright works in the region. Myanmar has no IP regime yet. She agrees it is a long process and we cannot expect to amend laws for each country as it will take many years to do that. 

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Topic 3 : Entering the Video Games Market – Licensing IP

Mr. David Greenspan

     David began by defining what is licensing and where one can create a game based on a licensed property such as from popular books, comic books, and movies. The failure to obtain the appropriate rights could prevent the game’s distribution. The benefits of licensing for both the developer and licensor was highlighted. He then showed the evolution of soccer game videos from the earliest to the present and the issues it brings.

     The pros and cons of licensing, the failure to clear the rights such as a tattoo design is copyrighted in the US and a developer could be sued if a similar design is used in a game but was not licensed. Some litigation regarding IP is not valid but can be costly to the developer. The developer could pay for damages or have to stop selling the game. David showed various actual cases of IP litigation in games involving the use of tattoos, actual buildings – Figueroa Tower, similar  strip club name or design in the area, Bell helicopter design of Textron, use of Dilinger name in guns, use of a furniture corporate maker in a game without a license, use of Humvee truck, etc. there should be a risk analysis of a trademark, a license can still be cheaper than arguing first amendment rights and fair use. 

     The license agreement terms have to be spelled out and major issues negotiated. Another form of licensing is rights of publicity. Again many actual cases have been shown, more on the image likeness  and persona being used but the look is not that similar but there is still a case; others are names and appearance – like Noriega, same football jersey color and number, a similar performance of a band and others are other examples of legal cases. 

3:30 pm  – 4:30 pm

Topic 4 : Game Development and Distribution, Publishing Agreements

Mr. David Greenspan

     Since there are only a few minutes left to the talk, David just briefly ran through the topic and promised to continue it for the next day. He explained the role and key players of the development team, the benefits of the developer on their own, the advantages of working with a publisher and the publishers’ role.

November 29, 2017

     I thought Alstaire can make it on both dates when I texted him to take notes and pictures on the 29th, he texted back that he could also not attend on the second day.  He only realized on the evening of the 28th that he had a scheduled TESDA assessment commitment on the 29th. I was really disappointed that Alstaire could not also attend on the second day as the topics were very interesting. 

     These are the missed topics: Topic 5 – Digital and Mobile Distribution and Marketing by David Greenspan; Topic 6 – E-Sports and Regulatory Issues ( privacy, data collection) by Andy Ramos Gil de la Haza; Topic 7 – Policy and Industry Issues by Ms. Jung Hye Choi, Chairperson, Serious Games and Gamification Division, Korea Game Society; Topic 8 – Video games in the Philippines – Challenges by Alvin Juban, President of the Game Developers Association of the Philippines. 

     Overall the workshop was excellent: the venue, the speakers, the topics, the food (snacks and lunch). I hope there will be a future workshop on small mobile game publishers, which will be directly applicable for the country.

Article and Photos by Edward L. Tan




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