Over the past decade, the gaming industry has evolved into one of the hottest sectors of mobile internet services. VentureBeat recently reported that in the trailing twelve months of Q3 2014, gaming accounted for $18 billion in trade exits and IPOs. A prime example of this is Amazon’s acquisition of game-livestreaming startup Twitch for $970 million in August of this year. Gaming is also currently one of the more profitable parts of the mobile internet sector, boasting an average 9.9x return on a three year investment.
Redbox Automated Retail, LLC (“Redbox”), provider of the popular self-service kiosks that rent movies and video games in airports and other locations, received confirmation last month from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that it can continue requiring customers to provide their ZIP codes to rent discs without violating California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act. Sinibaldi v. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 10556 (9th Cir. June 6, 2014).
The Federal Trade Commission has recently focused its consumer protection efforts on the mobile arena, and particularly video game companies operating in that arena.
Early last year, the FTC issued several staff reports related to mobile commerce and gaming. The reports (1) examined the use of mobile payments (see “Paper, Plastic… or Mobile? An FTC Workshop on Mobile Payments”), (2) promoted improved privacy disclosures for mobile consumers (see “Mobile Privacy Disclosures, Building Trust through Transparency”) and (3) revised online advertising disclosure guidelines (see “.com Disclosures, How to Make Effective Advertising Disclosures in Digital Advertising”). As with all FTC guidance, such reports do not represent the law. However, the reports do create safe harbors for companies that want to avoid FTC scrutiny.
On April 15, Georgia passed a law amending its tax code to provide a limited tax credit to qualified interactive entertainment companies. The law provides incentives for mid-size game developers who demonstrate sufficient ties to Georgia. Qualified interactive entertainment companies are those that:
Recent updates to consumer protection regulations may change the way web and mobile applications are monetized in the United Kingdom. Developers, particularly those developing promotional or paid-for content directed toward children, may want to know about how UK regulators are ensuring content is transparent, accurate, and fair to consumers.
We are pleased to share an article written by Bird & Bird’s Media team titled “Briefing note on the OFT’s Principles for online and app-based games,” available here. The article provides a wealth of practical and sophisticated advice for online and app-based game developers and publishers.
On March 25, 2014 the IRS issued Notice 2014-21, which describes how the IRS will interpret existing general tax principles to apply to transactions using “virtual currencies” such as Bitcoin. This Notice is the most recent in a line of similar regulatory pronouncements issued by several governmental actors such as the Government Accountability Office’s report in May of last year and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Guidance memorandum issued March 18, 2013.
This blog entry, which focuses on the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement, is the first of two articles geared at helping app developers understand the fine print of the agreements they are asked to enter into with the companies that distribute their products. Following later this year, the second installment will focus on the iOS Program Developer Program License Agreement.
As online social gaming becomes more pervasive in the lives of children today, it is vital for video game providers to understand and comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (“COPPA Rule”). The COPPA Rule applies to websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and to operators of websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from children under 13 (“operators”). It requires them to provide notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under the age of 13. It also requires them to keep the information they collect from children secure, and prohibits them from conditioning a child’s participation in activities on the collection of more personal information than is reasonably necessary to participate in those activities.
Last week’s arrests of Robert Faiella, an alleged seller on online marketplace Silk Road, and Charlie Shrem, the CEO of the startup BitInstant, marked a recent round in a series of law enforcement actions against what the government characterizes as a “rise in criminal activity” by people using the cryptographically-controlled digital currency, Bitcoin. The arrests of Shrem and Faiella occurred nearly contemporaneously with hearings by the New York Department of Financial Services to determine how to regulate Bitcoin in the State of New York. More than one source has suggested the timing of the arrests may have cast at least some cloud on the New York hearings on regulation of Bitcoin.
Creating a new rule that gives videogames much more limited protection than other expressive works, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that realistically depicting college athletes in videogames showing them doing what they became famous for doing—in this case, playing football—is not sufficiently transformative to avoid a state law right of publicity claim. In In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation (Keller), 2013 WL 3928293 (9th Cir. July 31, 2013), the court held that Keller, a former college athlete prohibited by NCAA rules from commercializing his name and likeness rights, could pursue a right of publicity claim based on the use of his likeness in a football videogame—a work admittedly protected by the First Amendment—despite the game producer’s assertion of First Amendment defenses. This decision, following on the heels of the May 21, 2013 opinion in Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc., 717 F.3d 141 (3rd Cir. 2013), which was heavily relied on by the Keller decision, as well as its re-interpretation of precedent in the right of publicity area that had up-to-now been considered well-established, are sure to have unintended consequences extending to branded entertainment and other hybrid contexts where brand messages and creative expression combine.