Copy Right.Legal Help

How legal is it to stream a game to a paying end user?

The End User License Agreement (EULA) of most games (even free games) typically prohibits you from redistributing the game to other people without the copyright holder’s permission. Even if the EULA does not explicitly state this, redistributing the game without an appropriate license or express permission is a violation of copyright law by default.

A court may rule that streaming the game to users’ computers is (one or more of the following):

  • effectively the same as manufacturing unauthorized copies of the game
  • effectively the same as redistributing copies of the game to other users without permission
  • an unauthorized public performance (any online stream of visual media such as of a Youtube video can be considered a public performance)
  • an unauthorized attempt to sublicense the game or its components to other users

Providing a virtual computer / remote desktop that users can install their own games on is different. The problem is that, unless granted a license or express permission to do so, you cannot preload the games yourself.

However, certain free and open source games may come with a license which explicitly allows you to redistribute the game to other users which, depending on how the license is worded, could potentially extend to streaming the game to users’ computers.

For question #4, it doesn’t matter whether copyright is enforced or not; what you’re intending to do is still very likely to be a violation of copyright (unless granted permission or a license) and you or your web hosting provider could receive DMCA takedown notices.

Also understand that the DMCA only provides safe harbor protections to websites/services operating like information conduits which simply allow other users/third-parties to upload/post their own content (like reddit).

The DMCA does not protect you if you (the website/service operator) are the one uploading/distributing the content. In order to receive DMCA protections, you basically have to demonstrate that it was a third-party user (not under your control/instruction) who uploaded the content and that you removed the content as soon as you became aware that it was uploaded/distributed in violation of copyright law.

If you upload or distribute copyright-protected material via your own website/service without permission, then you are fully liable – not only can a DMCA takedown be issued to remove the content but this is also likely grounds to have your website/service shutdown by court order and you could very well be sued and/or prosecuted in court.

As for #5, it may depend on the country/jurisdiction, but simply owning the physical game doesn’t usually give you the automatic right to download or play the game online (especially from unofficial sources).

It depends though – some countries/jurisdictions do allow users to transform/shift the format of the work or make/use copies of the format-shifted work for personal/non-commercial reasons. Sometimes this may extend to situations involving virtual ROMs, but this generally does not extend protections to the person redistributing the ROMs to other users.

The End User License Agreement (EULA) of most games (even free games) typically prohibits you from redistributing the game to other people without the copyright holder’s permission. Even if the EULA does not explicitly state this, redistributing the game without an appropriate license or express permission is a violation of copyright law by default.

A court may rule that streaming the game to users’ computers is (one or more of the following):

  • effectively the same as manufacturing unauthorized copies of the game
  • effectively the same as redistributing copies of the game to other users without permission
  • an unauthorized public performance (any online stream of visual media such as of a Youtube video can be considered a public performance)
  • an unauthorized attempt to sublicense the game or its components to other users

Providing a virtual computer / remote desktop that users can install their own games on is different. The problem is that, unless granted a license or express permission to do so, you cannot preload the games yourself.

However, certain free and open source games may come with a license which explicitly allows you to redistribute the game to other users which, depending on how the license is worded, could potentially extend to streaming the game to users’ computers.

For question #4, it doesn’t matter whether copyright is enforced or not; what you’re intending to do is still very likely to be a violation of copyright (unless granted permission or a license) and you or your web hosting provider could receive DMCA takedown notices.

Also understand that the DMCA only provides safe harbor protections to websites/services operating like information conduits which simply allow other users/third-parties to upload/post their own content (like reddit).

The DMCA does not protect you if you (the website/service operator) are the one uploading/distributing the content. In order to receive DMCA protections, you basically have to demonstrate that it was a third-party user (not under your control/instruction) who uploaded the content and that you removed the content as soon as you became aware that it was uploaded/distributed in violation of copyright law.

If you upload or distribute copyright-protected material via your own website/service without permission, then you are fully liable – not only can a DMCA takedown be issued to remove the content but this is also likely grounds to have your website/service shutdown by court order and you could very well be sued and/or prosecuted in court.

As for #5, it may depend on the country/jurisdiction, but simply owning the physical game doesn’t usually give you the automatic right to download or play the game online (especially from unofficial sources).

It depends though – some countries/jurisdictions do allow users to transform/shift the format of the work or make/use copies of the format-shifted work for personal/non-commercial reasons. Sometimes this may extend to situations involving virtual ROMs, but this generally does not extend protections to the person redistributing the ROMs to other users.

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