How To Copyright a Video Game and Prevent Infringement

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Working in the Gaming Industry? Learn How To Copyright a Video Game

The gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing creative industry branches today. Assuming you are a developer, you should know how to copyright your content to keep your game safe from copyright infringement.

You also wouldn't want to end up in a lawsuit because someone claims you stole a part of their game.

When it comes to copyright laws, the gaming industry is in a bit of a grey field. The rules are there, but a lot of copyright lawsuits seem to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

What Can You Copyright in a Video Game?

According to the major copyright laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as soon as you publish your game or put it in a fixed form, you get the full DMCA protection as the copyright owner. That protection lasts during your lifetime plus an additional 70 years.

This is how copyright works in general, but with games, the situation is a bit more tricky.

A game is a bundle of different things: a code, music, visuals, characters, storylines, and many other elements.

You can copyright your finished game, but when it comes to its specific parts, not everything is covered by the existing copyright regulation.

Once you publish your game, you can copyright:

  • Specific characters
  • Scene images
  • Specific storylines
  • Dialogue
  • Original music
  • The code

These elements are legally yours, but there are nuances to be aware of.

Specifics of a Video Game Copyright

Your code is protected as a literary work, but the visuals and sound protection issues are more complex. You can copyright them as an audiovisual work, but only to the extent that someone else cannot duplicate it completely.

For example, if you create a specific pink castle for your game, no one can use that specific pink castle without committing copyright infringement. They can use another pink castle, and the difference doesn't have to be particularly significant.

The same rule goes for characters. You can create a specific princess for your game, but someone else can create another princess.

You can protect your storylines, but only the specific parts. A princess living in a castle is not a specific storyline. An author cannot report copyright infringement if someone is using the same general concept.

Video Game Copyright Issues—What You Can’t Copyright

There are two additional aspects of video game development that you cannot copyright: a concept called the scènes à faire and game mechanics.

What You Cannot CopyrightWhat It MeansExamples
The scènes à faire doctrineThe concept refers to the elements that are needed to realize a specific idea connected to your game. They include everything that a game cannot exist without
  • The scoring system
  • The lives
  • The levels
  • The coins
  • Other elements like castles, cars, drivers, spaceships, aliens—anything general that a specific game cannot exist without
Game mechanicsThe way the game is to be played is not copyrightable because it refers to the idea behind the game
  • The concept
  • The method of playing the game
  • Rules
  • Any other functional elements

How To Copyright a Game Title and Other Elements

You can't copyright your logos and game titles, but you can trademark them, which is a little different from copyright.

A trademark is more marketing-oriented, and it's used to distinguish your game from other brands.

When you register a trademark for your title or logo, it prevents other developers from using it without your permission.

You do not have to register a trademark, but it's better to do so from a standpoint. You can do it on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website.

How To Register a Video Game Copyright With the U.S. Copyright Office

You don't have a obligation to register your finished game or copyrightable elements with the U.S. Copyright Office, but it can help when dealing with infringers in court.

You may have to register code and visuals separately, so expect the cost of the copyright to be higher.

The U.S. Copyright Office lets you register your work via mail, which is a more expensive option.

You can do it by sending your printed copyright application, a copy of your work, and the filing fee via post to 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540, United States.

Another option is to register your game and its elements on the U.S. Copyright Office website.

How To Copyright a Video Game Online

This is a cheaper and faster method.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Go to the U.S. Copyright Office website
  2. Select Register
  3. Go to the appropriate section—depending on what you want to register
  4. Click on Register
  5. Create an account with the U.S. Copyright Office or Log in to your existing one
  6. Choose Copyright Registration
  7. Pick Register a New Claim
  8. Click on the Start Registration button
  9. Complete the form
  10. Pay the registration fee
  11. Send a copy of your work

Protect Your Game From Copyright Infringement With the Help of DoNotPay

Copyright infringement cases are abundant in any industry, and gaming is not an exception. The rules regarding video game copyrights are confusing, so a lot of developers choose not to go after those that have stolen their content.

If you believe someone stole your game and published it online, you have the right to take it down from the infringing website.

DoNotPay will help with this by drafting a DMCA copyright infringement notice, which gives you, as an author, a way to initiate a DMCA takedown and get your content removed from the website that uses it without your permission.

You can draft the takedown notice yourself and send it to the Internet Service Provider hosting the infringing website. Since the notice should contain specific statements and include language, it's a bit risky to do it yourself.

Use DoNotPay, the first virtual lawyer in the world granted with the American Bar Association Louis M. Brown Award for Access, to generate and file a takedown notice quickly and without having to do any research.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Open DoNotPay in your
  2. Tap DMCA Takedown
  3. Type in the title of your game
  4. Paste the link to the stolen content
  5. Give us the link to the website where you posted the game originally
  6. Click on the Sign and Submit button

We take over from there. You can check the progress in the My Disputes tab on your Dashboard.

Explore DoNotPay's Versatility

Our app can help with other copyright-related matters. If you feel like you need an extra layer of protection, find out how to add a copyright notice to your game.

In case you need more info about DMCA rules for Twitch or copyright on YouTube since gamers might stream your game, DoNotPay will teach you about copyright claims, copyright strikes, and fair use policies.

When it comes to the elements of your game, we will show you how to copyright an image, character, artwork, or music.

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