Organizing events, running tournaments, and managing teams in esports involve various types of intellectual property, including the games themselves. Making sure IP is handled properly in your events is key to minimizing liability and maximizing success.
Here, we’ll discuss a number of potential IP issues in esports.
Types of IP in Esports
Esports events make use of a wide range of intellectual property, including visual assets, sounds, music, and so forth. Most of these can be lumped into two categories, which are trademarked and copyrighted material.
Logos, sayings, and other items used in brand identity are often used at events. Logos for individual games and companies need to be used with the publisher’s permission, and any markings used for teams should be carefully protected to prevent misuse.
Many assets used in games—and thus seen in tournaments—are copyrighted material. Audiovisual assets, plots, music, code, characters, and so forth should be handled with care, especially since there may be complex licensing involved. For instance, the music that appears in a game could have been licensed from another party exclusively for use in that game, making it worth taking some time to communicate with the publisher on which assets can be used in tournaments and other events.
Avoiding IP Pitfalls in Esports
With these types of IP in mind, let's look at how to avoid some of the potential intellectual property pitfalls that might arise in the realm of esports.
Obtain All Necessary Usage Rights
Usage rights are a major component of esports, particularly when it comes to the use of the games themselves. For example, most End User License Agreements (EULAs) exclude the commercial use of the games they cover, so it’s important for event organizers and teams to secure those rights before using them in tournaments. Communicating directly with the publisher is key to preventing legal actions in the future.
Consider Performance Rights
Performance rights are another potential issue. Egamers may have their performances in games copyrighted in certain jurisdictions, particularly if they play strategy games since those can reflect individual styles of play.
This is a bit of a gray area, but provisions for these performances should be covered in player contracts just to be safe.
Take Care with Skins
Skins—which are unique visual modifications to assets in the game—should be handled with care. Players and others using them should have all necessary usage rights, whether by having created those skins themselves or by getting permission from the creator. Additionally, skins may need to be cleared with the game developer, particularly in jurisdictions where the laws are pickier about transformative works.
Handling IP in Esports
The matter of IP in esports is still a developing field with lots of ambiguity. As such, it’s best to take as safe an approach as possible when handling the legal aspects of esports events and tournaments. Since there isn’t currently a lot of legislation governing electronic sports specifically, you’ll want to be extra careful.
If you’re in charge of hosting or organizing events in competitive gaming, an experienced IP attorney can help you keep your liabilities to a minimum. Hart David Carson LLP can help you minimize your legal risk.