I'm preparing research about a music-based arcade game, playable in the arcade game center. Requiring video dataset (including music in it), I recorded videos from the game playing by myself. I'm supposed to do two kinds of researches below:

  1. using both video and its music
  2. using only video (excluding its music)

Is it legal to use the videos for publishing an academic paper of each kind of works above, even though they are just a kind of replay-videos? Like many published research about games (e.g., Super Mario, League of Legend, ...), it seems to be possible to use in-game contents for research. I know there is a copyright issue especially using audio data for commercial use and in that case permission must be required, but I'm wondering if it is still an issue in terms of academic research. Actually, I don't know where to start searching keywords about this. Any help will be valuable to me. Thank you!

  • Is the music an original composition for the game? – Studoku Mar 28 at 16:17
  • @Studoku The game contains its original musics and licensed musics both, but they are separated and I will choose the original ones if the licensed ones are really problematic. – NeutrinoAnt Mar 29 at 0:21

It first matters what country is involved, because the specifics of copyright law differ in terms of how research use is treated. Copying for research purposes is generally treated favorably, but there is no blanket "if it's research it's okay" exception. In the US, you would be relying on the concept of "fair use", a defense where the court decides if things balance out in your favor. The problem is that fair use operates in terms of "balancing" plus a tie-breaker "transformativeness" criterion, and it is difficult to compute the outcome in advance. Therefore, you would need to hire an attorney that specializes in copyright law, to do an analysis of your legal risk based on all of the details of your plan.

Let us suppose that you are writing a doctoral dissertation in an area of arts and humanities on an artsy aspect of music in Doom 2. You collect AV data playing the game, then perform some kind of analysis, where you might e.g transcribe a handful of samples and include a few screen shots of the video. You do not post the raw data anywhere. This is most likely to pass the fair use test. Your copying is highly transformative (turns compute code into musical transcriptions and prose description of the tunes). Your dissertation has no (negative) effect on the market for the product, and it is for a non-profit educational purpose. Since you are copying the automatic output of a computer program, it is not clear how much is actually protected, but we can say that the drawing of the pink things is protected, but the specific configuration of pink and green things is not, that is a non-creative automatic calculation. To assess the "substantiality" of the copying, you would have to engage in a nuanced analysis of what things in the game are human-created, and what things are algorithmic responses.

There is a separate question you might want to consider regarding contractual commitments, depending on whether you are doing this as independent research, as an employee of some business, or a student or staff member at an educational institution. E.g. they may require you to obtain permission, and refuse to accept your work if you don't comply. But make that a separate question.


You should run this past the people responsible for evaluating research at whichever institution is sponsoring this study. If this is for a university, there are lawyers equipped to make an informed, reliable decision.

Generally speaking, though, a transformative use -- such as taking commerical pinball music and using it for academic research on the effects that music -- is probably going to be considered fair use, and therefore non-infringing.

  • I noticed from your answer that there exist lawyers in each university and emailed one of them. He gave me a positive answer for it at least in my country. Upvote cannot be applied due to my low repetition... – NeutrinoAnt Apr 2 at 10:02

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