Introducing E-Sports Law

By Emre Bilginoglu LLM[1]

E-Sports is a modern sport that is growing more popular each and every day. Its legal implications are crucial and lawyers need to be aware of them.

Organized competitive computer gaming is called E-Sports.

The most important video games for E-Sports competitions are: League of Legends (LoL); Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2); and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

LoL and DotA are both inspired by Warcraft, which is a franchise of video games, novels and movies. The first movie of the franchise, Warcraft: The Beginning, grossed an incredible 500 million USD. Half of the box office came from China.

CS:GO is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, a genre of video games, where the player engages combat through a first-person perspective. The first CS was released in 1999 and the current version is still played by millions.

The International is an annual Dota 2 E-Sports tournament. The prize pool for the tournament in 2016 was approximately 20 million US dollars. The final was viewed by almost 6 million spectators. Dota 2 tournaments have awarded a total prize money of approximately 90 million US dollars so far. League of Legends took the second place with 36 million US dollars; followed by Counter Strike: GO with nearly 27 million US dollars; and Starcraft II with nearly 22 million US dollars.

These video games require cooperation between team players; a high level of concentration; rapid reactions; and some seriously fast ‘clicking’.

The E-Sports industry is exponentially growing: there are some 250 million occasional viewers of E-Sports, with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the total. The growth of the industry is supported by online streaming media platforms, where everybody owns a channel. Viewers can observe any game of E-Sports clubs, all around the globe.

The clubs are mainly sponsored by tech firms; consumer electronics companies; gaming equipment producers; web hosting companies; automobile manufacturers; and energy drinks manufacturers.

Cyber athletes sign contracts with their teams and sometimes receive salaries from video game developers. They may want to make some extra money by streaming on online platforms, an important issue when drafting the contract. Therefore, E-Sports involves both labor law and contract law. Lawyers of video game developers excel in intellectual property. E-Sports also involves criminal law, as there have been several incidents of betting-related match-fixing in E-Sports.

Call it a sport or not, E-Sports is growing exponentially. It is an industry worth billions and watched by millions. Although the industry is a commercial success, there are still lots of legal issues to tackle.

[1] Emre Bilginoglu is an Attorney in Istanbul and the co-founder of the Turkish E-Sports Players’ Association, a not-for-profit organization, based in Istanbul, that aims to provide assistance to professional gamers and to work on the relevant laws affecting them.