Esports Law: Do Publishers Present An Antitrust Threat?

Jun 12, 2019

Several weeks back, William Stark, Steve Walkowiak, and Katie Tipper-McWhorter published an article about esports antitrust considerations. The piece raised critical points regarding game publishers’ iron grip on industry intellectual property rights and the potential emergence of unhealthy monopolies.

The Argument: Publishers’ Grip on Intellectual Property Could Cause Problems

Every year, the esports world is looking more and more like the traditional sports one. It’s divided into leagues, franchise teams, and players. Additionally, collegiate teams are becoming a way for exceptional talents to earn university scholarships and a better shot at “the majors.”

But there’s still one significant difference between “ball and stick” professional sports leagues and digital ones: Publishers retain intellectual property rights over nearly all elements of video games, including personnel, tournament, and viewing restrictions. Their omnipotent grip on the industry has esports analysts wondering if the current industry structure will create insurmountable barriers to entry that ultimately stifle growth.

Possible Esports Antitrust Remedies

The authors of the original article recommended proper planning to stave off esports intellectual property issues. We agree. And a detailed contract is the best foundation for any esports legal partnership. Players, teams, and MCNs should consider the following elements when drafting formal agreements:

  1. Salary payment scales and schedules;
  2. Tournament requirements and flexibility;
  3. Behavioral expectations and related violation punishments;
  4. Tournament revenue splits;
  5. Personal streaming rights and related revenue splits;
  6. Individual branding rights for merchandise and related revenue splits;
  7. Intellectual property rights of publishers with regards to player and team activities; and
  8. Parameters regarding termination restrictions, rights, and severance.

Connect with an Esports Law Attorney

The Gordon Law Group works with professional esports players, teams, MCNs, and leagues on everything from contract negotiations to copyright and trademark violations, in addition to tax positioning and marketing compliance.

Get in touch today to begin the conversation.

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