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275.2 sec. 1 - Video Game and Social Media Law (Spring 2014)

Instructor: Todd Smithline  (view instructor's teaching evaluations | profile)
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Units: 2
Meeting Time: W 3:35-5:25
Meeting Location: 244

Course Start: January 08, 2014
Course Control Number (Non-1Ls): 49850


The video game industry has evolved from a few big publishers creating games for consoles to a wide-open world in which social networks, start-ups, mobile operators and those same big publishers are all serving up interactive content to more than half of all Americans through the web, mobile phones, tablets and next generation consoles.

How has copyright law evolved in an era when faster development cycles mean a hit iPhone game can spawn a look-alike competitor within months?

What roadblocks does trademark law erect for a developer who wants to depict a real world night club in their game?

As games become ever more realistic, does the right of publicity protect a college quarterback or glamorous rock star from having their likeness used in a game without permission?

We will answer these questions and more as we explore the legal issues surrounding how video games are developed, distributed and enjoyed by consumers. After learning the relevant law we will assume the mantle of in-house counsel and consider how legal issues play out in the structuring and negotiation of interactive content development and distribution deals. While video games will provide the primary lens through which we view these issues, we will also examine the unique legal concerns which arise as social networks become a primary way for users to find and play video games.

The course will include a negotiation exercise between a developer and publisher, student presentations and a final paper. We will be joined by guest industry experts who will share their perspective on how the legal issues we are discussing translate into actual practice.

Todd Smithline is a principal with Smithline PC, a San Francisco law firm representing software, Internet and digital entertainment companies in their strategic licensing matters. Clients of the firm include Adobe, eBay, Facebook, OpenTable and Trimble and start-ups funded by the top venture firms in Silicon Valley.

Exam Notes: TH
Course Category: Intellectual Property and Technology Law

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