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Games Industry Law Summit – Making games in the time of war

Games Industry Law Summit
Games Industry Law Summit – Making games in the time of war
By Sergei Klimov • Issue #84 • View online
If there’s one emotion that is predominant among our friends, it’s the shock that a war is happening in 2022, in Europe.

This is not new
matthew cassel
From the center of Kyiv it's now possible to hear the faint sounds of fighting on the city's outskirts. The war is getting closer.
As I type this, Russian tanks are about to enter Kyiv. People are killed, both soldiers and civilians alike. Houses are burning, as columns of refugees attempt to leave the cities.
Here in Europe, we’ve been insulated from such events for quite some time. Though maybe this is just ignorance and wishful thinking. Yesterday, as I tried to explain to my kids that war is a very bad, and a very rare event, the reality hit me:
Wasn’t there a war in Yugoslavia in 1990s? Didn’t Russia bomb Chechnya in 1994? And then again, for years, starting in 1999? Didn’t Russia invade Georgia in 2008? And then Ukraine in 2014?
Come to think if it, when I was the same age as one of my kids, USSR invaded Afghanistan. That’s the 6th war for you. And if we count Russian planes bombing hospitals in Syria (a war crime, hence it’s a war), that’s 7. So we are, really, at the 8th war that involves this corner of the world, just on my memory.
This is not new – but this is no less shocking.
This is not an accident
Judith Stout
UK Sanctions Will ‘Flop’ Because the City of London is Compromised by Russian Money – Byline Times https://t.co/IdZVfQfhKT
For over 20 years now, the western world has been happily consuming dirty Russian money. Europe and US became the lawyers, the caterers and the real-estate agents of the newly born billionaires awash with cash.
The West embraced the corruption, until you could no longer tell where it ends. Like a virus, it infected our societies, from the prime minsters of the UK to the prime ministers of Austria, and former ministers of France and Germany.
We, the legal community, are no less guilty. When Catherine Belton published a book exposing Putin’s rise to power and his billionaire friends, one firm that I know and respect, Wiggin, went on to defend the book’s publisher. Meanwhile three other law firms that are also active in the video games industry, and where I have friends in the tech groups, signed up to defend the billionaires.
Didn’t matter that some of them were accused for sexual assault. Didn’t matter that it looked like a tactical move to make the cost of the publication high, rather than to actually fight for any “truth”. Money is money, and London’s restaurants are expensive.
Step by step, we ourselves set the stage for this week’s aggression. Kremlin’s friends funded Facebook, and everyone was only too happy to grab a piece of the cake.
The war, the violence and the death that we see this week are no accident. They are the outcome of the may years of our tolerance of the corruption.
This won't end tomorrow
Emilio Morenatti
Natali Sevriukova reacts near her house following a rocket attack the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. https://t.co/TTjFnbaHnH
Some of you have had a chance to read Timothy Snyder‘s books on the region, as we had those as prizes at 2021’s Summit. If you want to know the background to the current war, I highly recommend his works.
80 years ago Germany declared Poland a “non-entity”, where no laws existed because there was no state, and hence could be no laws, and now Putin’s Russia uses the same playbook to claim that Ukraine is “not a nation” as a pretext to bombing its cities in order to overthrow the democratically elected president.
What unfolds right now is not a temporary inconvenience, but a change in the world order that will take years to process.
The way we do business internationally, and the way we deal with Russia, will not remain the same.
The immediate challenges
Tom Winter
NEW: The U.S. Treasury is officially hitting Russia's two largest financial institutions, Sberbank and VTB Bank.

No correspondent and payable-through accounts will be allowed for Sberbank.

VTB is FULLY blocked with all assets held in U.S. banks frozen immediately.
For the games industry, the immediate challenges fall into the following categories:
* evacuating the talent
As of yesterday, men of military age cannot leave Ukraine. Japan, Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania stopped issuing visas to holders of Russian passports, with Belgium likely to join soon.
Russian airlines are prohibited from entering British space, and just now Russia banned all British airlines from landing or transiting over its territory. Belavia has its flights cancelled due to being too close to the war zone, and we’ll see more of that.
If you have talent in the region (UA/RU/BY), your teams are probably already working out the logistics, and will continue to solve this in the coming weeks.
* paying to contractors in the region, collecting money due
Ukraine issued a moratorium on settling obligations in front of Russian parties, and prohibited bank transfers for Russian residents. Ukrainian bank also froze operations in roubles, Russian and Belarusian.
A bunch of Russian banks got sanctioned (representing a bit over 50% of the Russian banking system, by value) and where yesterday there were queues to the ATMs Moscow in Minsk, today there’s more chaos – nothing functions, consumers can’t access their currency accounts.
If you work with studios in the region – if you pay to them as a platform, or contact them as freelancers – you need to be in close contact to coordinate every single payment these days.
Moreover, if you need to send console dev kits, you may be unable to do this under the export restrictions (at least this is the experience in Turkey, for a comparison).
* dealing with censorship and platform outage
Yesterday, Roskomnadzor demanded that every news outlet in Russia take down their reporting on the war and only publish the official propaganda.
We expect that today the actual blocking will start, and may include all of the major social platforms.
Moreover, as we see with the retaliation for the British flight ban, additional restrictions may arrive for platforms / games hardware in Russia in response to EU/US sanctions.
What can you do?
If you’re involved in any projects in the region, I urge you to reach out to other Summit firms and companies, and to share experience.
Some of us have great relationship to specific embassies, or payment providers, or platforms, and will be able to help or share best practices. Perhaps a studio is moving talent to your region, and you can assist? Or perhaps you need assistance?
Just this morning an Ukrainian studio got the help of a Polish law firm and a Polish games publisher to help a family with kids across the border, and we ourselves are in the process of moving several developers from Russia into Lithuania.
Let’s use the synergy of our community to the maximum – it’s time to put all of our connections.
Making a personal impact
A lot of people ask about how we can make a personal impact. Something I’d like to highlight is:
We need to support independent journalists.
Meduza is an independent outlet that publishes in Russian and English. They’ve been squeezed out of Russia and operate from Riga, and they are the uncensored voice that delivers the truth to the Russian-speaking audience. 
You can read their online report from the war here (in English).
➡️ You can subscribe to send them €10/month here.
The Kyiv Independent is a collective of journalists who quit their former magazine over censorship, and started the current media with the goal of delivering the truth. Similarly to Meduza, they depend on the readers to fund their reporting.
This is the web version and this is their online feed from the war (both in English).
➡️ You can subscribe to support them monthly here.
If you can afford to commit €10/month from your personal account, this goes a long way to allowing these voices to speak the truth, which we direly need at this time.
Yes, supplies and other aid is important, but accurate information from independent media that reaches the west and the east is also crucial. Let’s help keep these voices heard!
Status of Unpacked in Warsaw, Summit in Vilnius
We place Games Industry Law Unpacked, which was scheduled for May 9-11 in Warsaw, on hold.
While we continue working on the program, and even though we secured an amazing centrally-based outdoor venue and currently finalise the menu with the caterer, we cannot commit as of today to running the event against the background of the war.
If there will be a ceasefire, and if the Russian aggression will be curtailed, then we will be able to run the Unpacked safely – but it’s hard to say, when. We will keep you posted. Perhaps May can still happen, and perhaps not – we will know better in 2-3 weeks.
There are no changes to Games Industry Law Summit and to the Legal Challenge. Both shall proceed as scheduled.
I apologise that you have to read about the war, even though you subscribed to a games industry newsletter, but it is what it is, and at some level it’s inseparable. We are a global industry, and when a sovereign country of 40 million is invaded by another country, it unavoidably has a direct affect on each of our firms and companies.
We’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, we send our love and support to every law firm and games studio that we know in Ukraine. Please stay safe, and we’re here to do what we can – an email away.
Слава Україні! Героям слава!
Did you enjoy this issue?
Sergei Klimov

A newsletter about games industry's legal side, written for the benefit and entertainment of the folks attending (or considering to attend) the annual Games Industry Law Summit in Vilnius.

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Games Industry Law Summit is organized by Charlie Oscar Lima Tango Interactive Entertainment UAB