The eSports law booklet from the Italian IPT team of DLA Piper covers a number of current and upcoming legal issues of eSports and how to deal with them.

The eSports market has grown at a tremendous pace over the past few years becoming a half billion dollar industry and it is quickly seducing an increasing number of fans, operators and investors. Beside the huge growth, the industry is rapidly evolving, going from content consumed largely through streaming platforms to network-backed streaming services.

The Italian Intellectual Property and Technology team of DLA Piper has published an eSports law booklet in order to help companies operating in the market to better understand the issues that are arising and to which the eSports industry in some cases does not still have a good answer. More specifically our analysis has been focused on:

  1. eSports – Advergaming and the new frontier of advertising law and image rights: a number of large companies are already familiar with advertising in videogames, where the most common marketing strategies are the so called in-game advertising and the advergaming. Both communication forms have now become part of the common language of the eSports and their audience as well. The above triggers specific legal issues due to the peculiarity of the way they are conveyed;
  2. How videogame tips and eSports streaming need to deal with copyright limitations: publications sharing tips on how to complete videogames and maximise bonuses might increase with the expansion of the eSport competitions. The same applies to platforms streaming videogames alone or together with eSport actions of the various players. But are these activities possible without the right holders’ consent?
  3. eSports tournaments between gambling and prize promotions limitations: the regime for prize promotions around Europe is very complex and organizers of eSports tournaments need to understand how to fit into the gaps of regulations. In particular, in Italy, it applies both if they are based on chance or skills (the so called “concorsi a premi“) and when they just award prizes in kind upon a purchase (the so called “operazioni a premi”), while prize promotions awarding prizes in cash are banned and might be even requalified as gambling;
  4. How to deal with rights on eSports arenas and venues: the design of an eSports arena could contribute to the creation of intellectual property rights, enriching the experience of the audience. This concept supports other peculiarities of eSports venues, usually designed in order to allow the spectators to meet or see from short distance the athletes. Actually, the very nature of videogames contributes to reduce the gap between professional players and fans. eSports venues designed without addressing these peculiarities and needs risk to hinder the development of eSports, whose live dimension is necessary to create traction for the discipline;
  5. eSports copyright issues and the copyright on dance moves: in Europe and in the US, a choreographic work is protected by copyright. The more players are given the opportunity to create and interact, the higher is the likelihood that the user generated content (“UGC”) will be considered a creative work protectable under copyright law. This is why there is a tendency to try to protect under copyright law an extended series of dance moves by several individuals in the US who claim they have invented dances moves (including the L dance) and therefore sued for copyright infringements video game publishers using such moves;
  6. How loot boxes deal with regulations and limitations?: loot boxes are not a homogeneous category and there are several different iterations of the mechanic. A range of stakeholders, including regulatory agencies and academics, noticed that they might be deemed to be gambling and risk to be in breach of unfair commercial practices rules since in some cases they are not fully transparent;
  7. How blockchain can support the eSports industry: companies step into the eSports game often launching an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) allowing users to buy-in and leveraging smart contracts technology to enable players and brands to organize tournaments of any scale using tokens as a prize pool. Furthermore, distributed ledger technologies (DLT) are being used to enable streamers to earn coins with advertisements on their channels and through sponsorship agreements. Therefore, blockchain technology could foster even more the huge market growth building trust, adding transparency and introducing new business models;
  8. The concept of eDoping in eSports: during the last years not only game software have been modified, but also keyboards or mouse settings have been altered to perform a series of actions with a single click. However, there are also doping activities that do not require any form of modification. For instance the “stream sniping“, requires that players watch live broadcast of the match in which he/she is currently playing to get an insight into the opponent. As this was not enough, eSports are also not exempted from cyber-attacks. And with technology constantly advancing, it’s a never-ending battle which require commitment on all fronts.
  9. The protection of minors in eSports: a large number of eSports fans – both among players and audience – is made up of minors. The involvement of such a vast number of minors in eSports clearly raises some legal issues due to the need of ensuring a strong protection for them. To this extent, the two aspects that should mainly be considered are contractual relationships involving young players and data protection issues.

You can read and download the booklet HERE for free and we hope you will enjoy the eSports law articles from our DLA Piper team!