14 February 2020 | Reading time: 2 minutes
In part 1 of our blog on the global rise of esports, we focussed on legal issues affecting the industry, including player contracts, governance and sponsorship.
Part 2 focusses on copyright issues raised by esports, how they differ from conventional sports and how video game developers and publishers can commercially benefit from these relatively new issues.
When a conventional sport is played (eg an AFL or English Premier League match), there are no obvious intellectual property rights in the players’ performance of the sport, unlike with some musical or dramatic performances. Recording the match on your phone from inside the stadium or arena may contravene your ticket’s conditions of entry. However, you are unlikely to infringe a third party’s copyright, unless you capture copyright material (eg background music).
Unlike conventional sports, there may be copyright in the underlying video game of an esport. Video games are not protected as a whole but they usually include copyright protected material, such as the:
The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) grants the copyright owner an exclusive right to use, and authorise others to use, that copyright in certain ways (eg the exclusive right to communicate the copyright material to the public). If a third party:
without the video game developer or publisher’s permission (depending on who the copyright owner is), they may be infringing the developer or publisher’s copyright.
As seen above, conventional sports have limited intellectual property in the actual game or match being played. However, there is substantial copyright protection in video games, which provides video game developers and publishers opportunities to commercially exploit copyright in their games.
By creating competitive, organised tournaments for their own video games (eg an esports tournament), or by licensing a third party to organise a tournament for them, video game developers and publishers can:
If you are a video game developer/publisher or are considering organising an esports tournament, get in touch with Bespoke’s Intellectual Property team for assistance with conducting an IP audit of your video game and preparing licence agreements for esports events.