‘Chaotic lawful': teaching videogames in a licensing and permissions Lacuna

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This short essay explores how the present coronavirus crisis and the resulting shift towards online teaching are intensifying the urgency of copyright issues concerning the use of digital content in higher education teaching contexts. This shift arguably aggravates the existing lack of permissions and licensing models that can accommodate videogame-related teaching in higher education. Writing in the broad context of teaching game studies, game design, game programming, game development, and computer arts in the UK, we draw on personal experience and a small informal survey conducted among colleagues in the academic community in order to offer a snapshot of issues currently experienced by educators. Our focus is on issues stemming from the use of audiovisual in-game content in lectures that are either streamed live or stored online for asynchronous student access, as well as the making available of videogames in playable formats to students in teaching contexts. In theory, it is likely that such uses will be covered by fair dealing/fair use exceptions; in practice, however, they may be misidentified as infringing, or as contravening institutional policy regarding the use of copyright-protected materials. As we want to argue, this is due to a combination of two main factors: the first, regarding the use and sharing of playable games, is that there is a lacuna of educational licenses and permissions models; the second, concerning the online storage and dissemination of in-game content, is that the monitoring of such content is now often relegated to algorithmic digital rights management (DRM) systems that are unable to distinguish between permissible and infringing material.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
No.Spring 2021
Specialist publicationJCMS Teaching Dossier
PublisherMichigan Publishing
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021


  • Digital games
  • Pedagogy
  • Copyright
  • Educational licenses
  • Intellectual property
  • Videogames
  • Fair use
  • Fair dealing


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