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Fair Use VS Ripoff - When Gamers Get Caught in the Middle

With all the fuss recently about gaming companies and Youtube protecting intellectual property, one man has come to light about Game Informer using his photograph without permission or compensation.

The gaming world has gone crazy over intellectual property rights.  Trademark infringement claims have shown up everywhere and are aimed at everyone, both as a result of automated systems and as a result of companies 'protecting their interests'.  If one were feeling charitable, one might think the average gaming company is extremely concerned with the right and wrong of creative property.  

Game Informer, then, would not appear to be an average company, according to a curious thread on Reddit.

The man who started the discussion claims to have taken a photograph of himself for an angry gamer meme, shown on his Flickr here.  A while after the picture was taken, Game Informer published an article of top 10 most annoying Call of Duty gamers, using this picture as the first image in the article.  Eventually the man in the picture contacted them to inform them it was an unlicensed use of his likeness.  His communications were ignored for months.  Now he has turned to Redditors to try and find a solution.

This is just another symptom of the problem.

While it did not take long at all for someone to link him to DMCA takedown information and free forms, this still brings up a very unpleasant topic that becomes increasingly more and more apparent the closer one looks at the modern state of copyright, trademark, and licensing laws.

Constantly we see large companies threatening to sue both individuals and smaller companies for the use of images, sounds, and any other conceivable form of creative expression. Other companies have to purchase trademarks out of self-defense, or to protect their players. Gamers have already been caught in this crossfire with the recent removal of thousands of YouTube videos, some featuring games which did not even want the videos removed, but this person on Reddit brings up the other side of the issue:

It is significantly more difficult to enforce these laws to protect oneself without a corporate entity backing you up, making the protections and abuses both decidedly weighted in favor of money.

As an online journalist, I am constantly reminded to use care when selecting images to include in my articles and to be sure to properly credit any quotes specifically to avoid stepping on any legal toes.  I would expect a site the size of Game Informer to have similar criteria.  Hopefully we will get more information once the business day begins tomorrow.  After all, the surest way to get a response from any corporate entity is to show their actions to the public and wait for them to begin damage control.

Published Feb. 9th 2014

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