Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

June 2, 2008 -

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.

 


Comments

Sounds Like Fair Use

To me, this sounds well within the relm of Fair Use. Both churches and libraries ae Non-profit organizations. Any entry fees they charge are used to cover operating costs of the facility and organization.

I really like the idea of altering the EULA and sending that to the game company and waiting for their response. If you get no reply, they must approve. :)

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Sounds Like Fair Use

:: I really like the idea of altering the EULA and sending that to the game company and waiting for their response. If you get no reply, they must approve. :) ::

Except that would be legally ineffective. Your changes would constitute an offer. Their silence is not acceptance and would likely be a rejection. They're under no obligation to accept your changes. If you went ahead and used the software, the old terms would still be in force.

How this might work would be to make the changes to the EULA at the time of sale. Present the contract to someone with apparent or actual authority to accept the changes and THEN buy the software if they don't make any argument. There are, of course, lots of problems with this approach too since few software companies sell their own software through venues making this easy.

 

Re: Sounds Like Fair Use

Unfortunately, if there's a license, it trumps fair use. You can agree to give up rights you would ordinarily have otherwise through a license.

Re: Sounds Like Fair Use

Hehe maybe jack thompson could try it "Dear florida bar, I've decided that I no longer have to adhere to the rules I originally agreed to, furthermore this is retroactive so please disregard all prior breaches. Thank You"

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

There's a couple things going on here. I assume most video games (for consoles) are sold like books and, thus, first sale doctrine will apply. This means that there's no need for a EULA, though, I don't really see why they couldn't include a EULA.

Under the first sale doctrine, a rights holder does not lose their exclusive rights to copy, publicly perform and public display. The rights holder does lose their rights to prevent subsequent transfer, in whole (though, apparently that doctrine is under attack even for restricted transfers of software). This frequently arises in other fields unrelated to software: public performances of sheet music purchased, reading plays aloud in a park, reading books on the radio, etc.

So, to the extent that these are public performances/displays, then, yes, the libraries, churches, bars, schools, etc. are infringing the copyright. And, for that matter, the infringement shouldn't be any more controversial than you putting on a play in a park for members of the public.

Whether this is good advertising is beside the point. The point is that they probably need a different license. This becomes especially acute where certain venues are actually EARNING money from these performances (bars, churches, libraries) since the fair use arguments starts to tilt further and further away from fair--the same could be true for feeless performances too, of course.

Like all bad legal advice, most of the suggestions for librarians (absent getting a license) are legally risky even if any action by the rights holder will be seen as "big meanies." Looking like a big meanie certainly hasn't stopped folks in other creative areas before.

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

I'd question the enforceability of a EULA for a book (although we seen it attempted before). However, the more likely solution to that issue is that the library would be advised not to buy such items.

They might be infringing the copyright, absent a license. If they don't agree to a license, then there are stronger and weaker fair use arguments that can be made. At that point its a matter of risk analysis from the institution.

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

Many a lan party would violate this aswell. What about a party with 30 or 40 people at your house?

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

Yeah, I'd probably sponsor them, maybe offer a game as a door prize or something. It'd be good PR and funny if a church hosted a gaming session of gears of war...

Do console games have an EULA? I just had a look at the manuals for army of two (since it's ea I figure they'd have to have a draconian one and it'd probably include a clause regarding relinquishing the soul of your firstborn if you so much as imply by body language that you're not having the best time in the history of the world) and GTA4 and except the amusing disclaimer saying that rockstar don't endorse or encourage emulating the actions in the game (Like drunk driving you MADD twats), there's no sign of EULA style legalese except talking about warranties. I seem to recall the 360 itself having something along the lines of an EULA, was it a broad over-arching "Whatever you use this machine for it must be private & non-profit, even if you're spanking midgets with it or trying to shag it" kind of thing?

By a quick look at the manuals & cases, it sounds like open season (though I'm certain the "everyone knows you can't do that" argument would probably stand up in court)

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

What? Of course theres EULAs. Did you actually look in the GTA IV manual? I opened mine up, and it was on the first page I looked (last page of the manual). You agree not to "(f) use or copy the Software at a computer gaming center or any other location-based site". Seems to me like it's expressly prohibited.

However, looking at the typical "party" games like Rock Band and Smash Bros, their licence agreements (if they even have them) seem to only prevent copying, and doesn't care about multiple people/consoles using it. I wouldn't be surprised if most party games are like that.

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

I've not got that, I've got SOME EULA stuff but not that detailed. Mine has the usual "don't copy, rip off, lend to mates (love that one), no decompiling, reverse engineering", it DOES have the "this program is for private use only" thing.

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

"Private use only," depending on the media, might not actually mean anything. Many DVDs say "private use only" when you start playing them, "licensed for home use only," or something similar- but that doesn't mean that first sale or other copyright exemptions don't apply.

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

If I were a game publisher, I think I'd want to encourage these nights since they provide free advertising.  It's a lot like playing the consoles at Gamestop.

---------------------------------

So speak I, some random guy.

Re: Do Library & Church Game Nights Violate EULA?

There are some folks who feel that custom assignment | assignment help | online assignment by promoting physical activity  through the use of video games, children are being socially isolated or not be encouraged to go outside and play. There are some opponents who say that it takes away from traditional physical-education exercise. assignment | assignments | assignment writing | buy assignment

 
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