While libraries and church groups are increasingly turning to video game events in order to attract teens, such get-togethers may have copyright implications, according to the School Library Journal.
Check out this Q&A posted yesteday:
Q. Lots of school and public libraries are hosting gaming tournaments, featuring popular video games like Guitar Hero and Madden Football. Since these games are intended for home use, isn’t that similar to purchasing a movie and showing it to a large audience?
A. Everyone seems to be asking that question! Video games come with licensing agreements, and before purchasers can play the games, they must agree to their terms. The video-game licenses that I’ve seen are strictly for “personal, noncommercial” uses—not public ones. So when libraries host gaming programs, they’re violating these agreements. Yet, lots of libraries are doing just that—and they’re getting away with it. And some are even charging an admission fee to attend these events. What gives?
My guess is that video-game distributors never anticipated their games would be used publicly. So when their lawyers drafted the licenses, they simply used language commonly found in software contracts…
Librarians can: (1) continue to offer video-game competitions and let the chips fall where they may; (2) contact the rights holders and ask if their licenses can be modified to accommodate your programs; or (3) email the rights holders and tell them you’re opting out of the portion of the contract that allows only home use—and unless they tell you not to, you’re planning to offer gaming tournaments.
GP: It’s a fascinating question. Game publishers would look like big meanies if they tried to enforce this, of course. On the other hand, I believe that Internet cafes pay for some type of multi-user license for some online games.
UPDATE: A well-informed video game industry source dropped GP a line, offering some insight on this story:
For motion pictures, schools, libraries, and other institutions get licenses to exhibit the movies. It’s pretty straightforward and no-one seems to have a major problem with it. See http://www.movlic.com/ and http://www.mplc.org/aboutMplc.php. I’m not aware of similar services for video gaming. Probably should be.