John Marshall Law School’s New Webcast Series Examines Video Gaming as Serious Medium of Expression

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Intellectual Property Law Professor William K. Ford of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago begins a webcast series on video and board game issues.

Intellectual Property Law Professor William K. Ford of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago begins a webcast series on video and board game issues.

An examination of gaming issues takes to the Internet through John Marshall Law School Professor William Ford’s webcast discussion on the gaming medium.

In the series “Games Are Not Coffee Mugs,” Ford and guests will examine the intersection of games and the law, especially intellectual property (IP) law. The series explores the protections the law guarantees game creators, and the persons and characters that appear in the games.

“Gaming is actually a serious topic, whether we are talking about video games or non-electronic games,” Ford noted. “Academics are interested in it. University presses are publishing books related to games. And, there’s a lot of money involved in video gaming in particular and some important and unresolved legal questions related to how the law applies to games.”

The first three webcasts are posted at

Discussion topics include the question of whether games should be treated as a serious medium of expression; the application of patent law to games; and the video game industry’s early copyright disputes.

The name for the series, “Games Are Not Coffee Mugs,” is based on a law review article Ford and John Marshall colleague Raizel Liebler published in the November 2012 issue of the Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal. That article considered the courts’ treatment of games for purposes of the right of publicity as something other than a serious medium of expression. Much like that article, the first webcast explores whether games not only deserve First Amendment protection, but also whether games deserve the same treatment under the First Amendment as more traditional forms of expression, such as books and films.

For the first episode, Ford talks with game designers Assistant Professor Doris Rusch of the School of Cinema and Interactive Media at DePaul University; Associate Professor Tom Dowd of the School of Media Arts at Columbia College-Chicago; and Eugene Jarvis, co-founder of Raw Thrills Inc. and the designer of the classic arcade games Defender and Robotron 2084.

The second episode features Ford with John Marshall Professor Benjamin Liu, a patent law expert, in discussion on patent law and games. The third episode focuses on the video game industry’s early copyright disputes. The guest is George Gerstman, a Chicago area attorney and author of Clear and Convincing Evidence: My Career in Intellectual Property Law.

Ford also is teaching an online video gaming class this summer. It is a companion to his seminar class “Computer and Video Gaming Law,” which is offered during the academic year.

The video game industry marked its 40th anniversary in 2012—tied to the 1972 release of the successful Pong game. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 49 percent of U.S. households own a dedicated game console and the average game player age is 30. Indeed, even The New York Times is reviewing video games in its arts pages.

For additional information on the webcast, contact Ford at 7ford(at)

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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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