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esports monthly round-up: July

26 July 2018

Welcome to our esports monthly round-up in which we reflect on some of the news and developments in the world of esports.

If you would like to know more about how we can assist esports organisations, investors, event organisers, sponsors, professional gamers and other stakeholders, please contact us using the details on the right-hand side.

Fortnite v PUBG

It is safe to say that 2018 has so far been the year of the battle royale, with both PUBG and Fortnite soaring to huge successes. Both titles have spawned a number of clones and the game mode has invaded popular culture. The topic of cloning recently came to a head when it was reported that PUBG developer, Bluehole, filed a lawsuit in Korea against Fortnite developer, Epic Games, for copyright infringement. While the claim related to aspects of the games being similar, the central issue was whether Epic Games was ‘replicating the experience’ of PUBG.

The lawsuit has since been dropped, but given the runaway popularity of battle royale games at the moment, rights holders will continue to be particularly protective of their IP and their position at the forefront of the market and similar allegations of copyright infringement in this space, including in relation to cloning, are foreseeable in the near future.

One of our esports specialists, Kostya Lobov, recently shared his views with Verdict on what the lawsuit could mean for the games industry. You can read the article in full here.

Top tips for esports start-ups

As the popularity of esports grows, we are increasingly being asked to assist entrepreneurs, as well as established sports teams and other businesses, with setting up their own esports organisations and tournaments.

One of our associates, Mike Jones, recently wrote an article for LawInSport, which provides an overview of the issues that need to be thought of when starting up a business in esports. This article is the first part of three and covers incorporating your company, engaging individuals to work for you and protecting your IP. The latter parts of the article will be published in the coming months and will go on to explore data protection, advertisement, sponsorship and complying with specific regulations. You can read part one of the article here (LawInSport, paid subscription required).

Streamers hit by Twitch bans

Last month a number of popular Twitch streamers were served takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for copyright infringement relating to music they had featured on their channels. Each of these streamers were hit with a temporary ban from Twitch for failing to comply with the platform’s terms of use.

The offending content contained music by the artist Juice Wrld, whose label filed a number of takedown requests to streamers who had featured the tracks on their channels. Eventually the bans were overturned by Twitch, but this incident highlights the importance of obtaining the appropriate licence to use copyright material when streaming or creating other content online and the impact it could have if content creators fail to obtain the necessary rights clearances. Popular streamers depend on their activity on Twitch to build their brand and often compete in tournaments on the platform. As a result, even temporary bans can have a major impact on a player’s exposure and ability to compete.

This has been interesting for both our music industry and esports lawyers since it highlights the potential audience reach that streaming can give to up-and-coming artists, in addition to the inherent risks associated with using copyright material without a licence. With some of the streamers affected by the temporary bans often achieving tens of thousands of concurrent views, it is possible that new and even established musicians will look to collaborate with streamers on a commercial basis to ensure that their music is featured on popular channels, but under an appropriate licensing arrangement. The full article on the bans can be found here (Polygon).

esports to become a university sport

Universities across the UK will be soon be welcoming esports as an official sport alongside the likes of rugby and hockey. This move comes after British Universities and College Sport (BUCS) partnered with Benchmark earlier this year to create National Student Esports, which will run the new varsity esports league.

Gaming and esports are not new activities at universities, but they previously lacked any official recognition and therefore often struggled for funding and attention. This new initiative is designed to increase interest and participation and will help to legitimise esports as a competitive activity among students. You can read the full story here (The Times, paid subscription required).

British Esports Championship launched for schools

Not to be outdone by the universities, a new esports tournament for schools, the ‘British Esports Championship’, will begin in October this year in a further positive move for grassroots esports in the UK. The competition, set up by the British Esports Association in partnership with Twitch Student and AoC Sport, will allow students aged 12-19 to compete against one another, with plans to create regional divisions if there is sufficient interest (which one would assume there will be).

The involvement of Twitch Student means that competitors will also have the opportunity to begin streaming. As well as increasing participation at grassroots level, which the tournament will generate, the introduction of streaming may also engage interest from family and friends of competitors who may not traditionally have considered watching esports. You can read about the new tournament here (Esports Insider).

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