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How do I Copyright a Game?

By Emma G.
Updated May 16, 2024
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It is not possible to copyright a game in its entirety. However, the creator of a board, computer, or video game can copyright individual portions of a game. To do this in the United States, the creator must contact the copyright office at the Library of Congress. The creator must send an application form, a filing fee, and a copy or representation of the game.

If a creator chooses to copyright a game, he or she can copyright only those parts of the game that are judged to be a form of artistic expression. That means an animator can copyright the artwork, or a composer can copyright the music, but only those portions of the game are protected under copyright. Text describing the story or rules of the game may also be protected under copyright. The actual code written for a computer may be covered under copyright. The idea for and the title of the game are not protected by copyright, and systems, devices, and method of play are not protected by copyright.

A creator can choose one of two methods to copyright a game. If the game includes written material like game directions or storyline elements, the creator should copyright the game as a literary work. When a game is granted copyright protection as a literary work, the art in the game can also be covered under the same copyright. On the other hand, if a creator wants to copyright a game that contains mostly visual elements, he or she should copyright it as a work of visual art.

To copyright a game, a creator can either visit the website of or write to the copyright office at the Library of Congress or the equivalent office in the country in which the game was created. The creator must fill out a copyright respiration form. He or she must also include a filing fee and a deposit. The deposit is a copy of the game or material that will identify the game in case of copyright litigation; details vary depending on the size and type of game.

Once all the required material has been submitted, the copyright office will send a certificate of copyright. The creator may publish, sell, and disseminate the game before he or she receives the certificate of copyright. In order to begin legal proceedings in the case of copyright infringement, the creator must have a certificate of copyright.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By elizabeth23 — On Jan 12, 2011

@mitchell14, I personally find the laws against downloading emulators and ROMs of games to be unfortunate. As you say, many of these video games are no longer available for sale, at least not as new copies, and many of the systems are not, either.

Many people download these games because of nostalgia and a desire to play something that cannot be acquired another way.

By mitchell14 — On Jan 11, 2011

Copyright laws for video games have become very confusing with the increased popularity of downloading "emulators" of video game systems and "ROMs" of video games. These programs allow a person to download any game and play it from a personal computer as though it were being played on the system. Though many of the games downloaded most of are no longer available for sale, it is still considered illegal to do so in many places.

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