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February 1, 2006

Game Law School

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:43 am

I got a call yesterday from a reporter from a Southern California paper about a law school there that is instituting a course in Game Law. Apparently it’s a two hour, once a week, sort of thing being taught by an attorney who used to work in house as a major publisher. I had actually approached Nova University Law Center in Fort Lauderdale about a game law seminar type course a few years ago. The Dean of the Law School, Joe Harbaugh, was my evidence professor when I was studying law at Georgetown so I just called him up and pitched him. Nova bills itself as the “Most Wired” law school in the country with extremely progressive instructional methodologies. And that’s pretty much true…but it is still an institute of higher learning with all the administrative mumbo jumbo that I have pretty much avoided my whole adult life. So, after I was directed to the appropriate administrator and they explained what they would need in terms of materials and such to put this course into the que for possible consideration by a committee at some uncertain point in the future…I sort of lost interest.

So now a few years later I get this call…and I have to say, as I thought about it, I was not really too sure it was much of an idea. Oh, sure it would be fun for the teacher and probably for the students. But the real value of a course like that is extremely limited. I rely on my core course work in contracts from law school every time I review a deal. Similarly, the course work in Intellectual Property have real value. Heck, even secondary courses like Constitutional and International Law have value in the present day game industry. But as for the real world value of a seminar in Game Law…I think honestly it is a fluff course at best…but there is certainly a place for fluff in any students course selection process if for no other reason than mental health - though it does certainly smack of pandering to student interest. But then, I get calls all the time from law students interested in the industry - so the demand is there.

There are some difficulties involved as well. Just as with full degree courses in game development, the business of the game industry changes constantly…certainly much faster than and curricula development process in a law school. this means that the course would have to change annually. And if one devoted themselves to teaching Game Law they would probably lose touch with the status of the industry pretty fast. I have been lurking on a serious games mail list for quite a while and I have to say, these academics seems to be a pretty clueless bunch. And I suspect that after a few years out of the loop, no matter how hard one tried to stay current, any “Professor” would probably find their material out of date. Heck, me living in Florida puts be a bit behind already. And I deal with this stuff every day.

The other issues I see is that the scope of the course is going to be naturally limited by the subjective experiences of the instructor. I am sure that the POV of the guy teaching this course on the west coast, coming out of the legal department of a major publisher, would be tons different that my POV being a trained litigator and hard core games who represents mostly small independent developers. It sure would be in terms of the underlying business and legal issues and, of course, the litigation aspect from my POV is way different than that of an in house counsel who most likely has a much more transactional practice focus.

Anyway, I wish them luck with their program and I am, to be honest, a little jealous. It would be an absolute hoot to get to go to a law school once a week and BS about the industry with a bunch of bright young lawyer wannabees! Hmmmmm…Maybe I’ll give my friend Joe another call…..

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