Stephen Ellis “Snoopeh” talks with Mark Register about the tricky and lucrative world of Intellectual Property in Esports:
Mark Register – Can you explain intellectual property law and how it pertains to eSports?
Stephen Ellis – I will not pretend to be an expert in IP law and break it down…I can’t even Explain Like I’m 5 it for you, I’m not qualified to do that.
What I will answer is why Intellectual Property is interesting is Esports.
So Riot games is a publisher developer and they own League of Legends. They dictate wherever League of Legends is or is used.
It is my understanding that they can dictate how it is used, when it is used, and by whom it is used. The same goes for your Valve’s, your Blizzard’s, your 2k games, your Ubisoft’s…every developer and publisher out there…they own the intellectual property that is the game they make.
Now if ESPN wanted to come in and start broadcasting League of Legends tournaments they could do that but Riot’s probably gonna say “Hey we own that! You’re a massive several billion dollar revenue company. We want to share that pie!” They can then start charging for those rights.
What becomes very interesting is…we saw some instances of this where YouTube Gaming is coming to the space now over the last year and they’re going to start doing some deals around the ecosystem. Are they going to do exclusive deals? Are they going speak with Riot and try to negotiate where Twitch and YouTube will stream? This is the case right now.
Or maybe they’re gonna come in and say “what if we just give you 3x whatever Twitch is offering but we want exclusive rights.” Then you start fighting over broadcast rights which would be really good for the industry by the way because you look at traditional sports…where close to sixty percent of revenue in a league like the NFL is through broadcasting rights.
So it will be good that people start fighting over broadcasting rights and pumping more money into the scene and I think when that happens Riot will start looking at revenue share models for the teams and spilling that money down.
What’s interesting to me is…if I’m a player sitting in my room and I’m streaming with twenty thousand people watching me play League of Legends…could Riot prevent me…most likely they can…stop me streaming that game.
I don’t think they necessarily will but for example…I use YouTube gaming and Riot does an exclusive deal with Twitch. I now want to stream League of Legends on YouTube Gaming. If Twitch says: “we want exclusive rights of any broadcast of League of Legends on the Internet. We’re the goto place for it.” But I’m an individual player in my bedroom streaming on YouTube Gaming. Am I not allowed to?
Does YouTube Gaming have to pull it down? Does Riot enforce that?
There are instances like the MarsTV Dota tournament in China where the player Admiral Bulldog was re-streaming the tournament on Twitch…even though MarsTV did an exclusive deal with Azubu to stream on their platform.
So the whole tournament…all the casters, everything was streaming on Azubu with ~5k viewers… Admiral Bulldog was re streaming to Twitch through the Dota client not rebroadcasting Azubu, getting almost three times the viewership that the main tournament was getting…and Twitch paid nothing for that.
Does Valve as the IP owner have to come in and say “hey Admiral Bulldog you can’t do that” or is he protected because it’s just through the client. You may own the relationship with the tournament but you don’t own the game. So if Admiral Bulldog wants to go through the client and stream this, that’s up to him.
There are all these questions about the roles and responsibilities of developers in the coming years that I think we will probably see some kind of lawsuit at some point regarding this. When I don’t know and with who, I have no idea.
But it’s going to be a very contentious issue in the future as people start fighting over broadcast rights.