Games and Other Uncopyrightable Systems

All the King's HorsesI’ve long been interested in copyright and games—an interest that began with copyright and video games, but worked its way backwards to consider games generally. Games exist at the boundary of copyright law: they seem to include much that is protectable, and yet there is a general rule in copyright doctrine that games are not copyrightable. (For more, see my fourpart series on PrawfsBlawg in 2008, in particular Part III and Part IV; also this post).

I’ve now uploaded a new paper to SSRN, Games and Other Uncopyrightable Systems, that explains the purpose and argues for the continued vitality of that rule. Some may recognize the paper as what used to be Part I—the “background” section—of my long-awaited video games paper. The questions surrounding the copyrightability of games proved to be so intricate that it required a separate paper just to address them. In short, games are uncopyrightable because they are systems—a conclusion that is only moderately helpful, because systems themselves are not well understood. I therefore tackle that issue as well. Here is the abstract: Continue reading