The Copyright Protection of Video Games from Reskinning in China-A Comparative Study on UK, US, and China

AuthorLi Zihao
LI Zihao
Video games are becoming a popular form of entertainment, as well as an important part of the
Internet industry. With the adva ncement of computing and graphics techno logies, video games
are now defined by various elements, which are the intellectual ach ievements of the designers.
However, the prosperity of video games also creates a breeding ground for copyright
infringements. Reskinning, a s one of the popular cloning methods, has gravely harmed the
interests of game d esigners. Being the largest video ga ming market in the world, China has to
deal with these issues properly to ensure healthy and sustainable development of its video games
industry. In order to examine copyright protec tion of video games from reskinn ing in China,
this article firstly introduced gen res of video games, the current legal protection mechanisms
and th e subject matter of video games to dem onstrate the status quo of video game and its
regulation. Then the article compared the current c opyright protection of video g ames among
the US, the UK and China and analysed each lega l approach for the purpose o f exploring
possible approaches to improve copyright pro tection of video games from reskinning in China.
Finally, the article proposed three suggestions for Chinese copyright law from the subject
matters of copyright protection, asse ssment criteria and industry-based self-regulation parts.
With the emergence of the Internet technologies, video games1 has
quickly become one of the most popular entertainment choices. Since
the launch of the first mainstream video game Spacewar! in the
US, digital games have become a worldwide industry. The global
market for video games is expected to continue on its fast expansion
in the future.2 However, throughout the history of digital game design
and progress, there have been imitations and copies of other games.
This continues to be a considerable issue in this sector. Game
innovation is inseparable from imitation and sharing of ideas,3 but as
a type of creative work, legislation should draw a line between
legitimate inspiration and plagiarism, to serve the developers’
1 The video game i s normally defined as a n electronic game that contains interaction with u sers to
generate audio-visual feedback on a two- or thr ee-dimensional display device such as a screen, virtual
reality headset or computer. The video game is constituted by various elements such a s gameplay, game
roles, game rules, storylines, in-game dial ogue and background music.
2 F. Willem G rosheide et al., Intellectual Property Protection for Video Games: A View fro m the
European Union, 9 J. INTL COM. L. & TECH. 1, 2 (2014 ).
3 The famous ga me Counter-Strike has been remixed an d redeveloped, becoming one of the most
popular game models.
interests. Thus, the legal framework for protection of video games is
increasingly vital.
For China, which is the second largest video game consumer in the
world, 4 the protection of video games is particularly essential.
According to the 2017 China Game Industry Report, the actual sales
revenue of the Chinese digital game market reached RMB203.61
billion in 2017, representing a year-on-year increase of 23%.5 Mobile
games account for 96% of all domestic games. China has become the
largest video gaming market and the third largest mobile gaming
market in the world.6
However, with the rapid development of the video game market,
the infringement upon video game intellectual property rights is also
in an alarming increase. The 2016 Investigation Report on
Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights in Online Games shows
that, in 2015 and 2016, the total number of online game infringement-
related court cases reached 254, which is eight times year-on-year.7
According to the report, the distribution of the cause of action of most
of the cases were copyright infringements, mainly related to networks
and online game imitation.
A. The Development of Mobile Games in the Game Industry
The swift progress of video games has led to the development of
mobile games. The mobile game is defined as a type of video game
that players use smartphones and tablets to play.8 While this new
4 Zhongguo Hulianwang Xinxi Zhongxin ( 中国互联网信息中心) [China Internet Information
Center], Di-sishi Ci “Zhongguo Hulianwang Fazhan Zhuangkuang Tongji Baogao” (40次《 中国互联
网络发展状况统计报告》) [The 40th “Stat istical Report on the Internet Development in China”] (Jul y,
5 Zhongguo Yinshuxie Y ouyi Gongwei ( 中国音数协游戏工委) [China Ga me Publishing
Committee] et al., 2017 Nia n Zhongguo Youxi Chanye Baogao (Zhaiyao ban) (2017年中国游戏产业报
(摘要版)) [2017 China Gaming Industry R eport (Abstract)] (Dec., 2017),
member/upload/pms/201712/19115519 j09s.docx.
6 Leading Mobile Gaming Markets Worldwide Based on Share of Mobile Game Sessions as of April
2017, STATISTA (Jan.7, 2019), https://
7 Beijing Shi Haidian Qu Renmin Fayuan ( 北京市海淀区人民法院) [Beijing Haidia n District
People’s Court], Wangluo Youyi Qinfan Zhishi Chanquan Anjian Dia oyan Baogao (网络游戏侵犯知识
产权案件调研报告) [Investigati on Report on Cases a bout Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights
in Online Games] (June 2017), http://www.netmvp. cn/uploadfile/file/20161202/20161202_a4816620.pd
WINNING GAMES (Focal Press, 2012).
industry is growing rapidly, it is also regarded as a highly controversial
sector because o f the low market access requirements and rapid rate
of return.9 The mobile game industry is disruptive and is the largest
and fastest-growing area of interactive entertainment.10 According to
the 2017 China Game Industry Report11, the number of mobile game
players in China reached RMB460 million in 2017. The revenue of
mobile games in 2017 was RMB112.21 billion, representing an
increase of 38.5% over the same period of the previous year. Mobile
games account for 55.8% of the video game market. A recent success
story is Tencent in China, which is an Internet enterprise comprising
of various businesses. Tencent’s game revenue in 2017 was $18.6
billion, with the mobile game Glory of the King accounting for the
bulk of this revenue. 12 Apart from the big game developers,
independent developers, such as Daybreak and Dong Nguyen, have
demonstrated that success is possible for a small game development
studio. Although the revenue that independent developers make is
limited to two percent of game sales in 2013, the fast growth of
independent developers deserves attention.13
However, there are also numerous “zombie” mobile games in
various application (app) stores.14 As of January 2015, 83% of the
mobile games (1.42 million apps) on the Apple Store had been
considered “zombie” games.15 This tendency leads developers to
clone gameplay, graphics, structures or titles of already popular games
to appear in the top search results by offering a familiar experience.16
9 Id. at 3.
10 Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Po wer of Videogames (MIT Press, 2007).
11 China Game Publishing Committee et al., sup ra note 5.
12 Zhongguo Fanyule Chanye Fazhan Baipish u (中国泛娱乐产业 发展白皮书) [China’s Pan-
Entertainment Industry Development White Paper], TENCENT GAMES (Mar. 7, 2016),
13 Drew S. Dean, Hitting Reset: Devising A Ne w Video Game Copyright Regime, 164 U. PA. L. REV.
1239, 1240 (2016).
14 Game industry investigators also use the term “zombie” to describe those offerings on the various
app stores that appear outside of top lists. Zombie games usually i s tough to be found, rated or download
by users in app stores. Due t o the low threshold and rapid rate of return, more developers have joined to
imitate popular games in order to be found or rank ed top in app store.
15 Sarah Perez, “Zombie” Apps on the Rise –83% of Apps Not on Top Lists, Up from 74 % Last Year,
TECH CRUNCH (Jan. 30, 2015), m/2015/01/30/zombie-apps-on-the-rise-83-of-apps-
16 Simon Parkin, Clone Wars: Is Plagiarism Killing Creativity in the Games Industry? , THE
GUARDIAN (Dec. 23, 2011), s-

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT