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Games Industry Law Summit – Plan C & other matters

"How are you?" is a simple question that, when asked in the Summit's community at the present moment,
Games Industry Law Summit
Games Industry Law Summit – Plan C & other matters
By Sergei Klimov • Issue #64 • View online
How are you?” is a simple question that, when asked in the Summit’s community at the present moment, yields a bunch of very complex answers:
Some companies and firms have been working from home for half a year by now, while some never gave up on their offices and still commute on a daily basis.
Some of the attendees already got sick with COVID-19 and recovered, some saw their colleagues fall ill, while others have escaped unscathed (“for now”, I should add cautiously).
A lot of the attendees have been dealing with the consequences of having evil mad men at the helm of their countries, though a few have discovered that, in fact, their region is not as bad as it seemed, prior to being tested by the pandemics.
About twenty attendees changed jobs or got promoted.
And more than ten families have had babies this year (including Katya and me!) – to the extent that a supervised 0-to-6 playgroup is now a part of the next Summit’s plan (the babies are going to get their own meeting room booked for the duration of the event, plus a couple of nannies to entertain them while their mothers and fathers attend the talks).
In other words, life goes on… just at a higher game speed, and with a harder difficulty level. Let’s hope that we all make it through to the next level, and that we’ll see each other before long – because all that champagne and wine that we already stocked, is not going to drink itself!

Plan C: May 5-7, 2021
Back in February, we announced the change from May 2020 to November 2020 as our “plan B”. One of the people who emailed me back wrote that November still looks risky, and that we should consider 2021 as the real option. Looking back, I feel like that person makes a terrific GC for a games company, having understood the concept of fat tails and convexity.
Anyways, it’s time for us to move to “plan C”:
May 5-7, 2021
With a bit over 300 registered attendees for 2020, we initially looked at the November dates from the perspective of trying to assemble most of the community (if not all) when it again becomes safe to attend the event.
And in terms of travel, the protocols have been developed and applied, and most of the direct flights have resumed: you can now take a 4-hour WizzAir flight from Larnaca to Vilnius without needing any quarantine, as both Cyprus and Lithuania are within the acceptable range of case load.
The other consideration has been the safety of the attendees during the event, and here, again, we’ve made major progress since February. First of all, upon arrival to Vilnius you can get tested – for free – with the results delivered to you within 24 hours (I helped one of our guests with this just this past weekend, it took 5 minutes and the staff at the testing site speaks English, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian).
Secondly, the benefits of face masks have been so well-documents, and the use of masks has become so common in our region that I’m pretty confident in being able to conduct a safe event even if one of the tests returns a false negative (if you’re following news out of Korea, you may remember the recent cluster at a Starbucks cafe, with 50+ customers getting infected by a single person; the people who did not get infected, despite the same exposure? the four staff members who wore basic face masks).
On the other hand, there’s two big issues that we cannot change at this time:
* Because of the social nature of the Summit, every attendee is exposed not only to other attendees, but also to the staff at their hotels, as well as staff at the restaurants and the venue. So while we can test everyone from the community… we cannot test everyone on the ground, and we have no control over where the staff works outside of our event.
Given how one family of 4 lead to 17,000 infections in Australia’s second wave, this is no joke (more on the Australian story here, if you’re interested: basically, 7 people and a breach in quarantine protocol lead to 22,000 cases in Victoria).
* Because of the different strategies (and varying success rate) in fighting the pandemics in different countries, and the opaque stats from some of them, it still remains impossible for attendees from certain countries to enter the EU (e.g. Brazil, USA, Russia, China, etc.), while in other countries, if you do not hold the national passport, you are allowed to leave – but you are not allowed to return (Japan).
And let’s face it: the Summit is not really a “European community”, or a “European-Canadian community”, it’s a truly international event that is made special by the fact that counsels come from over 30 countries. I want to ask Nima about Iran, I want to ask Ali about Turkey, and I want to ask Vanessa about Brazil, which is all currently impossible as the borders remain largely closed.
With all of the above taken into consideration, I hope that you understand our reasons for the change. Please email me or Alma if there’s anything that we can help with!
Legal Challenge IV
Earlier in the day, I sent an email to the finalists of LC IV informing the teams that the oral hearings are now going to happen on May 5, 2021. The Challenge is not only about winning the moot court, but also about connecting the finalist teams with the international community – which is only possible at the real-life event, and over the course of several days.
Speaking of the outcomes… We now have one more finalist joining the games industry: please congratulate Dariusz Grzywaczewski, whose team took 2nd place at 2019’s Challenge, on joining GOG’s legal team!
(Dariusz is second on the left here, toasting to his future success no doubt)
(Dariusz is second on the left here, toasting to his future success no doubt)
With Yahor (LC 2017) at Awem Games, Emanuele (LC 2017) at Insight, Anastasia (LC 2018) at Wargaming, Stanislav (LC 2018) at Playrix and Kireth (LC 2019) at Square Enix, this is the sixth case when the finalist of the competition becomes a part of the professional community.
Summit 2020 – refunds
Because the Summit is no longer happening in 2020 – and depending on how the accounting is organised at your firm/studio – it may make sense for you to get your registration fee refunded now, and then pay the fee again in 2021. If this is the case, please reach out to Alma and we’ll wire the refund within the next few days.
If you don’t need this for the accounting reasons and you still plan to attend next year, then no action is necessary, and you’re fully covered for May 2021.
New registrations for 2021
If you’re one of the attendees who applied after plan B came into force, and you haven’t been invoiced yet, please rest assured that this is normal. You need to work with Alma to get your hotel room booked, as those bookings are fully refundable and won’t incur any cost at this time, and then we’ll invoice you about 90 days prior to the event.
Online version?
We’ve given some thought to a possible online version of the Summit, at least in the part that covers the regional updates, but in the end decided that it would be the opposite of what we’re all about.
Given that the Summit is an invite-only community event for established industry professionals and that we operate under the Chatham House Rules, we simply cannot see how this would transfer to a public-facing online format that is open to being recorded on video.
To be able to have a panel where counsels from Google, Valve, Epic, Wargaming, Rovio, etc. frankly share their thoughts, we must ensure that the audience is hand-picked and knows the topic being discussed, and that whatever is said is not then made public by any of the attendees – where it could be misunderstood when taken out of context. The same applies to pretty much every speaker at the Summit.
Moreover, the presentations and panels are only a part – one could argue, a minor part! – of the event; whereas the personal interactions, whether over a flat white during the coffee break or over a glass of champagne during the Formal Dinner, are where you get to catch up with your old friends, and to make new friends.
Finally, I know that a lot of you have been contacted by a team that’s trying to launch an online legal event for the games industry this autumn –and while we generally support any initiative that helps the professional community flourish, we have no visibility into that plan, and we cannot vouch neither for nor against the value of joining it (they just took the attendee list from the Summit’s website and are contacting everyone with a profile there).
My personal opinion is that everything is worth trying once, as long as you have the time to try it.
MTG London moves to April 2021
If you missed Gaetano’s update, More Than Just a Game’s London edition has been moved to April 2021. We’re in this together, and we all hope that the global roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine in Q1 2021 will enable both the MTJG and the Summit events to run as re-scheduled.
Belarus: the largest protect in 30 years
Depending on how much exposure your games company, or your firm, has to Eastern Europe, you may be very familiar with the current situation in Belarus, or find it a bit of a puzzle.
In a nutshell, the country is seeing the largest protest since 1990s, with 200,000+ people taking to the streets after seeing the presidential elections rigged.
Compared to Russia in 2012, when a similar cause led to a somewhat similar reaction, Belarus has more people protesting, and the protest is not limited to any single social group: from workers at a state-run truck factory to workers at a British-owned software house, people are fed up with Mr. Lukashenko.
Another difference is the level of violence that the Belarusian police directed towards the peaceful protestors: at least 6 people have been tortured to death, and several hundred were beaten to a pulp while in custody (where 40 people are squeezed into a 4-person cell, of course without any regard to the risks of COVID-19).
The relevance to our industry is in the fact that Minsk is home to over 10,000 software engineers and artists, including more than 10 internationally successful game studios, which prompted the local IT industry to issue an open letter condemning the state violence and demanding new elections.
If you need a quick take on what to expect… most of my friends there do not see the situation resolving itself within the next few months, and several major companies (including EPAM with several billion dollars in revenue, and Yandex, Russia’s national IT champion) already relocating their Minsk staff to other countries.
#FreeFortnite
I am unable to wrap this newsletter without taking my hat off to the team at Epic Games, which set a beautifully executed precedent for taking a strategic approach to industry conflicts.
From the carefully drafted emails of one Tim to another Tim and to the actual conflict-themed swag and running a dedicated in-game event, this is a great example of what a capable, resourceful team can do, when it sets its mind to it.
While the actual matter is complicated (Apple guarantees security, invests in developing the platform for everyone – but also censors the content, and charges a pretty huge fee; Epic fights the public fight from which every Apple partner may benefit – but also insists on exclusives for its own PC store, which is still unavailable to access for game developers as its being curated), it’s pretty much impossible not to sympathise with the humanity of Epic’s cause and approach.
Facebook versus TikTok? Meh. Microsoft versus European Union? Bah. Rockstar having an argument with its parent Take-Two? Boring, boring, boring. Meanwhile, Epic Games versus Apple keeps most of my developer friends on the edge of their seats, and with a couple of exceptions they’re all rooting for Epic.
Stay safe, and until next time!
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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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