Lawful Neutral: 2020 was the year that wasn’t for MMO legal news

It's a thing.

It seems surreal, but it is that time of the year again when we wax nostalgic about the year that was. Well, maybe this year is a bit less “wax nostalgic” and more of a “kill it, kill it with fire” kind of response to the particular year that 2020 turned out to be.

In a year that will be remembered here in the United States for deep ideological divides, temper tantrums of presidential proportions, and a devastating disease itself that in some ways stopped the whole world from turning, there wasn’t much space left for gaming companies to get into legal shenanigans. Compared to 2019, 2020 was pretty much dead on the legal front, which is good or bad depending on your outlook.

However, that doesn’t mean that Lawful Neutral wasn’t able to dig into some tasty topics. I started out the year with a dive into everyone’s favorite mismanaged MMO: ArcheAge. I took a critical eye into what exactly went down that lead to a consumer class-action lawsuit suit against Trion Worlds. While the settlement was touted by some as a win for gamers’ rights, my critical analysis uncovered that the win was less an endorsement of consumer rights and more of an indictment against the gross incompetence of Trion Worlds.

I followed up a few months later with a review of a landmark case, MDY v. Blizzard, where I examined cheating as copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s not the most exhilarating topic on earth, the DMCA is often misunderstood as it applies to cheating, and MDY v. Blizzard was a good example of that.

Personally speaking, I then hit a bit of a slump on Lawful Neutral. Partially because of day-job aggro, and partially because of lack of meaningful legal topics to cover, it was a few months before we were able to put out another piece. I was still writing, though – I wrote several Soapboxes, and one even generated my very first Reddit hate thread — it’s a rite of passage in any sort of gaming related writing!

The biggest gaming-law news of 2020 was of course the Epic v. Apple drama, which I covered because of the wide-reaching implications of the lawsuit across the gaming sphere, despite not being directly related to MMOs. The case is still being decided, and we shouldn’t expect any real outcomes until much later in 2021. But the basic premise is that Epic is suing Apple for its anti-competitive businesses practices resulting from the stranglehold that Apple holds on the AppStore for all Apple devices and the stranglehold on payment processing.

In a full on schoolyard recess fight, the case is most notable because Apple and Epic started acting like tweens, using increasingly bombastic and over-the-top rhetoric on each other to try and curry public favor, including one particularly absurd statement calling Fortnite a trojan, which it is not.┬áSince I wrote the original piece, not much has happened other than a judge throwing out the claims of theft from Apple against Epic. But this isn’t a huge surprise as Apple didn’t really have any legal ground on that particular claim anyway; it was mostly over-the-top rhetoric more for the ravenous fanboys (and they are legion). But of course, we’ll see as the rest of the suit and countersuits wear on who emerges victorious.

There were a few other stories that broke that I haven’t covered here in-depth yet, either because of the timing or that there isn’t enough meat to them yet to break out into a full article. First up is a topic that I’ll likely be covering in 2021: the CD Projekt Red investor lawsuit, filed on Christmas Eve. The lawsuit alleges that CDPR made misleading comments about the performance of the Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One and PS4. Nothing has happened here yet beyond the filing, but this is likely to be an interesting case.

Another topic that is of particular interest to us that I’ll most definitely be tackling in 2021 is the passage of the CASE Act, which was roped into the US COVID-19 Relief Bill. Despite broad criticism, the act passed and will have a dramatic impact on streaming, sharing memes, and many other things we do on a daily basis. So happy holidays with that one too.

Outside of that, it was a pretty quiet year from this one perspective. I have a feeling that 2021 is going to be a lot more exciting. We can expect lots of movement on Epic v. Apple, the CASE Act, lootboxes, and privacy law, just to mention a few.

You can check out the full list of legal topics we covered this year on MassivelyOP below.

Every other week, Andy McAdams braves the swarms of buzzwords and esoteric legalese of the genre to bring you Massively OP’s Lawful Neutral column, an in-depth analysis of the legal and business issues facing MMOs. Have a topic you want to see covered? Shoot him an email!
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