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GamingLawPills #25 – CVAA accessibility rules for video games in the US and restrictions on video game piracy and modding in Japan

GamingLawPills No. 25 brings news on accessibility rules for video games under the US CVAA and on the Unfair Competition Prevention Act law which outlaws game piracy and console modding in Japan.

Accessibility rules for video games under the CVAA

The International Game Developers Association sent out a notice reminding operators of video games that the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) came into effect and impacts the video gaming industry. The videogames CVAA rules require

any communications functionality […] used to navigate to or operate it to be accessible to people with a wide range of conditions, from no sight to no color vision, no speech to limited strength,”

and those considerations must be made early on in development.

The CVAA is a law signed by the president Obama in October 2010 aimed at updating federal communications law in order to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications. To this extent, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repeatedly gave the video gaming industry waivers, the last of which was for game software and expired on December 31st, 2018.

Those changes – binding from the 1st of January 2019 – mean that video games’ developers should ensure text and voice chat are accessible, where appropriate “with reasonable effort and expense“, without hearing, without vision, with colour perception problems, with limited physical dexterity and with cognitive or intellectual disabilities. It may also be assumed that people with disabilities must be involved with the design or testing process to ensure that games fit the criteria provided for by the law.

According to the provisions of the CVAA, the restrictions now apply to any video game scheduled for release or “substantial updates” after that date. Therefore – apparently – existent games are exempted from the obligation, but games which start or finish development, or even receive major updates, should deal with the new obligations. Video gaming companies that fail to comply with the CVAA could receive customer complaints and undergo mediation with the FCC. If mediation does not led to a solution, they could face fines issued at discretion of the FCC.

Tighter restrictions on video game piracy and illegal modding in Japan

Japan recently revised its Unfair Competition Prevention Act, introducing new amendments that affect various sectors of the videogame industry with reference in particular to the practice of “modding“. In general terms, the concept of modding is the technical expression referring to the act of modifying or altering video games’ codes. Therefore, modding can also be considered a fair practice when it is authorised to fix bugs, update graphics, or introduce new elements in a video game.

On the contrary, the activities now considered in breach of the provisions of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act are:

  • the distribution of video game save data editors and programs;
  • the distribution, selling, auctioning serial codes and product keys without the video game maker’s permission; and
  • services that offer the editing/hacking of save data, and/or modifying/hacking game consoles.

Violations of any of these new restrictions may result in a 5 million yen fine or even in a jail sentence of up to 5 years.

I am Vincenzo Giuffrè, you can drop me a line @ [email protected] and read the previous issues of GamingLawPills here. Also don’t forget to try Prisca, our GDPR chatbot described HERE and stay tuned and register to our newsletter!

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Vincenzo Giuffré

Trainee Lawyer at DLA Piper IPT Italy, Milan| Graduated Student at Bocconi University: Major Business Law School | Exchange Program at University of Minnesota - W. Mondale Law School | Visiting Student at National University of Singapore (NUS)

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