Swastikas and censorship? A legal take on the Wolfenstein 2 debate in Germ...

The release of Wolfenstein 2 has sparked a heated debate in Germany on the country’s factual ban of swastikas in video games, perceived as being counterproductive in a game depicting the fight against Nazis. Any references to National Socialism have been purged in the localized version: The opponent is called the “regime”, swastikas are banned […]

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Website blocking: Efficient means of combating online piracy in the EU?

Stopping commercial copyright infringements on the internet is often difficult. Only rarely can the operators of such offers be identified, even taking hold of the hosting providers regularly fails. Thus, as a last resort, access providers can be compelled to block users from accessing websites offering illegal content. Such a procedure is not an automatic process; […]

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Briefly noted: Germany introduces transparency register to fight money lau...

The German legislator has recently amended the Anti-Money Laundering Act, implementing European rules to more effectively prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. One important new feature of the Act is the introduction of a national central transparency register, showing which natural person(s) stand behind certain legal entities as their beneficial owner, to the extent this information […]

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Digital distribution platforms introducing 14 day refund policies
January 13, 2015
Digital distribution platforms for apps, games and other content have recently changed their refund policies for such virtual items. European users can now “return” their purchases within 14 days for any reason – or for no reason at all. These plans have caused quite a stir. Are consumer rights the next big thing coming from app stores? What is the motivation for this move? What exactly is covered by the users’ right to return their virtual purchases? And what are the consequences for other providers of virtual content, such as games, apps or digital media? Read more
A look back at Games Law in 2014
December 23, 2014
We are looking back at an eventful year in games. The courts puzzled us with their Runes of Magic decision, the specific privacy issues of mobile apps came into the regulators’ focus, and youth protection organizations joined consumer protection groups across Europe in raising legal challenges that go to the core of the free to play model, making sure we never got bored.

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Mobile Apps and Privacy Miniseries (4/5): Specific Issues – Payment, Children, Tracking
December 12, 2014
Towards the end of its 33 page guidance document on the application of data protection law to mobile apps, the working group of German data protection authorities (Düsseldorfer Kreis) gives some specific guidance on a number of hot topics: Requirements for apps offering payment procedures, youth protection requirements (in particular regarding valid consent of minors) and issues of audience/range measurement. Read more
Mobile Apps and Privacy Miniseries (3/5): Privacy by Design
December 9, 2014
In order to fulfil privacy law requirements, it is more than recommendable to pay special attention to a privacy-compliant design right from the start of the development process. The so called privacy by design approach is accompanied by privacy-friendly default settings (privacy by default); this approach is intended to ensure that the app can be offered without data protection deficiencies. The German authorities’ data protection guidelines for mobile apps focus heavily on such orgamnizational and technical aspects, and have a number of recommendations. Read more
Monetisation of Mobile Apps in Europe (and Beyond) – 2014 Round-Up
December 5, 2014
The free-to-play model for mobile games has seen major growth in recent years and continues to expand internationally. However, its proliferation has led to concern from consumer groups and regulators. Specific areas of concern have been unauthorised purchases being made by children and how such games are marketed. 2014 has seen a number of developments in this area – we look back at some of the key events in the EU and the United States. Read more
Mobile Apps and Privacy Miniseries (2/5): Privacy Policy and Consent
November 28, 2014
In part 2 of our miniseries on German and EU privacy law and German authorities’ guidelines for app developers and providers, we look at a core general principle of data protection law: The collection, processing and use of personal data are prohibited except to the extent covered by specific permission. This can be a statutory permission or the concerned data subject’s valid, informed consent. But there are some hoops to jump through… Read more
Game App: The Italian Competition Authority investigation of allegedly unfair commercial practices
November 24, 2014
On May 16th 2014, the AGCM, the Italian Competition Authority (“ICA”) has launched an investigation against Google, Apple, Amazon and other entertainment companies in order to verify whether their conducts concerning an APP advertised as “free” can be regarded as unfair commercial practices. The object of the probe is an app-based game for children for Apple’s iOS and Android devices, and available for purchase on Google’s Play, Amazon’s App Store and iTunes. Results are expected in early 2015 – and game operators should be watching closely. Read more
Mobile Apps & Privacy Miniseries (1/5): Application of EU Privacy Law
November 20, 2014
European privacy law is progressively becoming a challenge for developers and providers of mobile apps. In 2013, German data protection authorities began an in-depth review of data protection compliance on 60 randomly selected apps. The result: Most apps were not even close to compliant with German privacy law.

In response to this, the Düsseldorfer Kreis, an informal working group of several German data protection agencies, created a set of guidelines for app developers and providers. Our miniseries takes a closer look at the guidance and the impact of privacy law in the mobile sector. App developers and providers would do well to take the guidelines into account from the very beginning of the development process. Read more

France to make PEGI rating mandatory
November 14, 2014
The French parliament is currently discussing a draft bill that may make mandatory the use of PEGI ratings in video games. This proposition is included in the bill on the modernisation and the simplification of procedures in justice and internal affairs. The bill could bring to life an age rating mechanism that has been technically mandatory for quite some time but has so far not been implemented. Read more
Final Decision in Runes of Magic Case: German Federal Court of Justice Upholds Ban on In-Game Item Advertisement
October 28, 2014
The highest German civil court, the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof; “BGH”), has rendered a final decision in the “Runes of Magic” case, confirming its earlier default judgment and ordering the operator of the client-based free-to-play online fantasy game to cease using certain language to advertise additional online content available for purchase.

More specifically, the contested wording included the sentence “Seize the advantageous opportunity and add that certain something to your armour & weapons”. Seized by a consumer watchdog organisation, the BGH considered the language a direct exhortation to children to purchase the items, which is prohibited by unfair commercial practices legislation.

The final written reasons for the decision (docket no.: I ZR 34/12) have now been provided, ending the lengthy litigation which started in 2009. While they address and attempt to resolve many of the most widely criticized shortcomings of the default judgment, they still leave readers puzzled in places. Is this a rogue case or the end of the free-to-play business model in Germany, as some commentators have speculated? We are seeing increased enforcement action in the wake of this decision, including from youth protection authorities. How should online games providers conduct themselves now? Read more