We all are surrounded by the world of e-sports since childhood. Starting with games such as IGI, Need for Speed, Hitman in PC’s and now with Call of Duty, PUBG in our mobile phones. The technology has come a long way. Ever wonder what goes behind it. As we know that there is regulation, laws, acts by the government for systematic and proper working of all aspect of societies. As a budding law, one may or may not know that there is some legal framework governing e-sports.
With the rise in population, there is also a rise in participation in this field may be as a gamer, viewer or revenue. Between the year 2018 and 2019, there was a 12.3% increase year over year and if we talk about year 2019, there was around 245 million casual viewers and 198 million enthusiasts. As per the report, year 2020 saw the slight drop but still there was 272 million viewers and 220 million enthusiast which makes it total of 496 million contributors.
Audience enjoyed mobile e-sports not only in few countries but more than half the worldwide. One can see the spike in past years in South-east Asia, Brazil, and Germany etc. it would not be wrong to say that this includes a wide range of activities and International Olympic Committee is ready to consider e-sports equal to that of traditional sports.
When people are attracted to something, there’s always a chance of conflict and dispute. And yes, there’s always a measure in the form of regulation, by-laws or intellectual property which governs and protect the rights and interest within it. The environment of e-sports has gained a large number of people worldwide and it is still an emerging and growing concept. It becomes necessary that the prevailing legal framework should be sufficient to tackle the problems and issues coming out of evolving e-sports.
COMPLEX RELATION OF E-SPORTS AND IP
Intellectual property law plays an important role in the field of e-sports. The rapid increase of user of e-sports creates a need of IP protection as it faces various legal issues. These games includes the use of characters including celebrities, codes, branding, third-party products, content etc. and thus raise the stakes for intellectual property protection.
Trademark & e-sports: A trademark can be a word, phrase, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. It helps to protect the goodwill and reputation connected with the game. Few things in the game such as name of the game, logos, tagline, and characters of the game can be registered as a trademark. They also identify the source of origin of a goods/services which makes up the goodwill and reputation of a brand name. It ultimately protects the registration of the title of the game as well as its tagline, allies, symbolic representation etc.
Patents & e-sports: A patents is a type of intellectual property that provides the owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention. An e-sports is a part of invention and needs protection. Playing methods, graphics design, programming, icons, user interface network etc. can be patented. This helps the owner from infringement and sue for monetary damages. It protects the invention that complies with the essentials of novelty, invention step and industrial application. It ultimately provide the owner with right to assign or license such technology to video streamers and organizers and can be helpful against unauthorized use by third party.
Copyright & e-sports: A copyright gives the owner/creator of original material the right to use and duplicate that material. It provides a legal right to the creator of original work as it protect art works, sound recordings and computer software which is the essentials of e-sports. It provides right to produce, reproduce, publish, perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works as well as it also provides right to damages for copyright infringement. It protects the artwork as well as sound effects used in the games.
International regulations for the protection of intellectual property in relation to e-sports had recently increase due to increase in the number of participants in this platform globally. With the introduction of smartphones, gaming laptop and especially widely accessible internet connections leads to copyright violation. The illegal downloads, piracy and unauthorized tournaments by the groups also causes gross violation of intellectual property. In order to advance global defence mechanism for intellectual property, WIPO administer twenty four different treaties concerning intellectual property.
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (i.e. Berne Convention): It is a treaty under WIPO and created in 1866. It protects a wide range of intellectual property including literary, scientific and artistic domain. It exclusively do not protect any computer programme, thus it is a failure in respect to e-sports. After the failure of this treaty, WIPO Copyright treaty addresses the concern of computer software.
The WIPO Copyright Treaty: It was created in the year 1996 and came into force in 2002. This Convention was created to comply with Berne Convention Art. 4 of WCT explicit extends the Berne Convention’s & provides protection to computer programmes, thus it is applicable in computer software. Now Berne Convention covers computer software used in e-sports.
The need of protecting e-sports arose with the increase of participants in recent years. We are into e-sports since childhood but do not have any idea regarding the protection of the same and what leads to violation of intellectual property rights connected to it. The e-sports in 21st century is rising day by day and its protection under the Intellectual property laws is quite complex.
It possess a significant threat in relation to intellectual property concern and with the rapid development of e-sports business, the laws should be as dynamic as the games. Trademark, Patents and Copyrights secure the essential elements of the games and provide protection against infringement.
As e-sport and Intellectual Property Rights have a simple history and a complex relation. Protecting e-sports through intellectual property is not straight forward. It is not as simple as it is not recognized as copyright work in the same way as musical or dramatic performance. There are many challenges have entered with the emergence of e-sports and could only be solved with the help of changes in Trademark. Patent and Copyright Laws.