In legal terms, a video game is a bundle of intellectual property rights. Copyright and similar rights may protect software code, music, sound recordings, graphics, animations and natural language text. To play the game, a person will need to copy some or all the protected works; and to do so lawfully, that person will need a licence. Accordingly, the primary business of a video game EULA is setting out licence terms.
The video game licence terms answer the following questions.
- What acts, otherwise restricted by intellectual property rights, may the user take in relation to the game?
- What acts are specifically prohibited?
Installing a game on one or more machines and to executing the game code – i.e. playing the game – on one machine at a time will typically be allowed. Redistributing or reselling the game will not. Whilst a user might be permitted to write distinct mods for a game, especially if those mods are non-commercial, the user can expect to be prohibited from creating derivative versions of a game.
In addition to the core licensing provision, a EULA will usually also contain disclaimers of liability protecting the developer, publisher and/or distributor. As video games are usually consumer products, some disclaimers of liability will not be enforceable because of consumer protection legislation.
Other provisions in a video game EULA might cover the process of contracting and agreeing the EULA, the provision of ancillary services such as the hosting of game code, rights for the licensor to terminate the licence if the user misbehaves, and general interpretative provisions.