Got an interesting law article in the snail mail by Dan Burk. "Owning E-Sports: Proprietary Rights in Professional Computer Gaming." Unfortunately the digital version is behind paywalls. Man, does that seem stupid. Amazon charging $10 for a law article? It's an interesting article, but not $10 worth of interesting. Is any research article worth $10 sight unseen? Anyways.
Burk's analysis highlights the fact that the law of real sports depends on the physical instantiation of those sports: Stadiums, bodies, playing fields, equipment. As a result, e-sports, where all these things are intangible, cannot rely completely on the pre-existing sports law. And as we know, intellectual property law seems out of place, since the primary issues do not revolve around the writing of created signifiers to RAM. As a result, the legal foundation of e-sports is murky.
Here's the intro anyway.
One of the most astounding and largely underappreciated developments accompanying the recent proliferation of mass-market computer technology has been the rise of video gaming. 1 From arcade to console and computer desktop to interactive multiplayer network, the explosion in computer video games has been spurred by Internet accessibility, whether for downloading and updating software, tendering payment, or finding and interacting with other players. The result has been a flourishing new entertainment sector, with revenues that now consistently rival or exceed that of the established music and movie industries. 2
Among the notable developments associated with the rise in computer gaming has been the emergence of a small but growing cadre of professional gamers. Millions of people play computer games as avocation or amusement, but some exceptionally skilled players are intent on making a living at what has been dubbed "e-sports." 3 The advent of this new vocation has been supported and accompanied by the development of a nascent professional infrastructure with features familiar from the world of physical sports and entertainment, including tournaments, leagues, fans, teams, team owners, player contracts, sponsors, and the like. 4 Yet many gaps and ambiguities remain in these supporting institutions, including significant uncertainties in the law needed to define the formal relationships among the various actors.
In this Article, I consider a fundamental set of legal issues, integral to e-sports, that concern the ownership and control of rights in player performances."