Game development law 101

Russells Solicitors' Marine Cabour on the basics

Game development law 101

"I wasn't sure what level to pitch this talk at, so I thought I'd go back to basics," begins Marine Cabour's talk at Pocket Gamer Connects London.

As a Solicitor at Soho law firm Russells, which is focused on media and gaming, she knows the importance of intellectual property and its place within the games industry. 

"IP is the lifeblood of the industry," she says. "It's what people invest in, it's what people will buy.

"Think about it as real property - it's effectively an asset."

Of course, then, it should be protected. But how?

Protect your property

She begins with a summary of copyright. First is that a work - particularly a game - can contain lots of different copyright elements at the same time.

Furthermore, she stresses that only the expression of an idea is protected and not the idea in itself. Therefore, only ideas provably expressed can be copyrighted.

Copyright, in the UK at least, does not need to be registered.

A trade mark, meanwhile, is a lot broader - can encompass more abstract ideas like scent, motion etc. - but does need to be registered.

Practical advice

In terms of practical tips, Cabour's first is to simply keep a good record of everything from early on in the project - including written notes of critical game design ideas.

Any partnerships should be entered into with a legal understanding, too.

"If you engage a third-party to do some work, ensure that they sign an agreement assigning the work to you," she says.

"It shows that you're serious and that you care about your IP... it helps you avoid any unnecessary headache in the long term."

Cabour then turns her attention to non-disclosure agreements.

"Always ensure if you are asked to sign an NDA that it is a mutual one," she warns. "Often you'll find that they are one-sided, and the one that issued it was the only one who is protected."

Finally, she says, "don't hesitate to use a lawyer. We're not scary people!"

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.