The first known historical precedent is the CPL or Cyberathlete Professional League, established in the USA in 1997, and considered the first institution to organize competitions with a professional approach. From that moment, the protagonists of this "Matrix"-type reality became visible and distinguishable: teams of millennials with their own identity, publishing companies, events and competitions, online platforms, and distribution channels; all converging with major brands such as Red Bull, Samsung and Intel, and becoming massive sports events by means of today's ever popular "streaming".
RELEVANT LEGAL ASPECTS
We can start with a business aspect, such as the fact that Riot (authors of the largest online game in the world, League of Legends), requested and achieved that, in the US, professional video players be classified as elite athletes when requesting work visas.
With respect to the subject at hand, Intellectual Property plays a preponderant role. The company that develops videogames and their copyrights; and companies that broadcast and/or rebroadcast competitions, must all ensure the audio-visual broadcasting and/or recording rights are upheld. Hence, collective management entities will also be mindful of the protecting of their catalogues.
We could make a long list of legal aspects closely related to intellectual property, but let us at least mention the most important ones: Videogames, the fundamental center of the competition, have technical and artistic elements that must be protected, based firstly and obviously on the fact that we are dealing with an original work supported by media. Recently, public figures such as Diego Maradona, controversy included, are part of the variety of creative elements comprising videogames.
We also have to mention that when organizing the event, the rights of the game's "Publisher" will be exploited, since it involves public communication and, why not? Also, public execution, on part of the players. We are thus faced with the need to provide a legal response to obtainment of licenses from the owner of the videogame, as well as payments to corresponding authors and interpreters, through the management entities.
Most fans will follow the competition by means of a broadcast (television or online), where another company will be involved in the filming, live broadcasting and recording of the competitions. Whoever broadcasts the event must consider at least two scenarios: the negotiation of broadcasting rights over the videogame in question; and the audio-visual rights of the event. There will be public communication, as well as the provision and conversion of the broadcast.
The Publisher shall also contemplate the issuance of licenses with respect to the audio-visual recording, resulting from the event (in addition to the game and competition, the event includes narration, commentary, images, replays, interviews, image rights of the competitors, team trademarks), mainly in favour of the issuer, who will be considered the producer of the audio-visual recording, along with its corresponding rights.
LEGISLATIVE PROGRESS, FRENCH-STYLE
In 2016, the France passed its "Digital Republic Law," which includes, among other things, some elements that seek to regulate E-Sports.
First, it establishes the parameters that these competitions must follow to not be considered gambling. In that sense, it imposes measures related to participation costs, the maximum amounts to be offered as prizes, as well as certain specific obligations regarding the distribution of prizes, so that they are redistributed in an equitable manner.
Finally, the labour issue is of vital importance. Players will be subject to the French Labour Code and must enter into an ad hoc employment relationship, for a defined term (written agreement), with the event organizer. The term of such agreements shall not exceed five years. In the event of a breach of contract, the agreement will adopt an indefinite term, along with the corresponding consequences for the employer.
Undoubtedly, one of the main aspects for the development of
E-Sports the entry of new competitors into the game, namely,
sponsors. For them, it will be vitally important that the rules of
the game (legally speaking) are appropriate.
Scholars agree that the main issues to be considered are: athletes and players' associations' rights; bets; match fixing; use of internal and privileged information; salary caps; distribution of income between teams and players due to broadcast rights; doping; and the contractual framework of the employment relationship between players and their teams.
Finally, some interesting details: E-Sports grant their competitors access to university scholarships in prestigious academies and, in the 2022 Asian Olympic Games, there will be medal-eligible competitions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.