Author: Dawid Sierżant

Humvee, iPhone, Pip-Boy: Can real-life items be depicted in video games?

Video game designers often place the narrative of their games in contemporary or historical times. This requires them to base elements in the game on items familiar from the real world, such as vehicles, clothing, jewellery, weapons, foods and electronics. Can such depictions be freely used in games, or is consent required?

This is a  crucial business question, and a mistake can generate significant legal risks for a game’s producer and publisher. It includes the risk of claims by owners of rights to depicted items, as well as contractual risks arising out agreements between producer and publisher, or distributor and console manufacturer (in various configurations, depending on the business model). The risk grows for AAA titles generating high sales all around the world. This situation is not helped by the major differences between the legal systems in the largest video game markets (the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Western Europe).

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