In 2018, the eSports market was valued at nearly 865 million dollars and some experts expect its value to exceed 1.79 billion dollars by 2022. The majority of this revenue is expected to come in the form of sponsorship and advertising dollars. Some will come in the form of betting, prize money, merchandise, and ticket sales. In terms of revenue, the greatest geographic concentration is in North America and Asia with Europe following closely behind. As the eSports market value continues to grow, gamers can benefit from understanding how to protect and promote their eSports Copyright and Trademarks
Back in my day, we used to go to physical arcades and take a roll of quarters and spend hours playing various stand-up arcade games, like Pacman, Galaga or Astroids, for recreation. Sometimes our friends would play along or we would play solo for hours. However, today, video games are not just for kids any more. Today’s video game market is more competitive and has a more professional sound to it.
Out of the almost 8 billion people on earth, 2 billion are Gamers. The average professional gamer can make about $60,000 with the top players making millions of dollars per year. Gamers can make money from tournament prize pools, salaries, endorsements, merchandise sales, advertisements, and online streaming to hundreds of thousands of paid subscribers who sit around and watch them play.
In today’s online world, we refer to video games which involve competition between players playing across the globe interconnected to each other by computers using real-time video animation through computer networks as eSports.
eSports games can involve many different genres including Strategy, Shooter, Sports, Action and Adventure games including First Person Shooter (FPS), Shooters, RPG, Strategy, Real-Time Strategy (RTS), Action-Adventure, Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO), Puzzle, Driving, Racing, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), Fighting, and Sports games.
Gamers playing video games online have turned a recreational activity into a regular, for-profit job with players spending thousands of hours training, doing exercises, studying, strategizing and modeling game-play to become the best. Giving the growth and demand for content, eSports has become one of the largest growth segments for creative content and subsidization by marketing and advertising dollars.
Copyright protects the artist’s rights to tangible works of art. These rights can include rights to videos, photographs, animations, computer games and software. Knowing which protections apply and who owns which rights can help you avoid liability for copyright infringement. In addition, you can use copyright to protect your ownership of your eSports Copyright by timely registering your work. Knowledge of eSports Copyright law can help you protect and grow your eSports business.
Like many entrepreneurs, savvy professional gamers, recognize that brand protection can help them leverage their the customer base to build loyal followers and can even be transitioned from game to game and in some cases can exceed any individual player. In addition, recognition of brand protection can also help professional gamers avoid potential liability which may come with improper brand usage. When a gamer is streaming a video and referencing various brand names or displaying the brands in a way to indicate sponsorship or affiliation, their can be liability for brand misuse. They can also have liability if they create confusion with other brand owners.
eSports Publicity Rights
Gamers can also have rights in their image and likeness. However, use of their image and likeness often overlaps with trademark and copyright laws. It is often helpful to distinguish these rights. For example, just because a video includes the gamer’s image, doesn’t mean they have rights to the video or picture. However, if someone uses the gamer’s image for commercial use without the gamer’s permission, they may have liability for the unpermitted use of the Gamer’s likeness. Often these rights are spelled out in an agreement. These agreements may be contained in standard website terms and conditions or they may be written into specific contracts which the Gamers are required to sign. Gamers should also understand what rights are at issue when they broadcast videos or pictures using various streaming platforms like Twitch, Mixer and YouTube.
Gamers gain popularity and earn revenue, in part, based upon their followers who watch them stream videos in real-time and who subscribe to their YouTube channels. One of the more popular streaming platforms Twitch, is owned by Amazon and has created a community of streamers and viewers that is centered around various online video games. The Gamers also known as Content Creators earn income from advertisers and marketers based upon the number of viewers and various products which are shown or discussed during their streams.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission implemented new advertising regulations on Gamers and Influencers to properly identify any endorsements for which they receive income, revenue or other forms of payment for playing or endorsing the products. Effectively, the FTC wants the Influencers who provide endorsement on products or companies to clearly identify their relationship with these companies. Failure to properly disclose the relationship may create liability in the form of fines and sanctions from the FTC.
If you have questions about eSports Copyright and Trademark rights, please contact one of our attorneys.