Journal article Open Access

A question of (e)Sports: an answer from copyright

Thomas, Amy

eSports is a nascent industry of considerable commercial value that is fundamentally underlain with creative works—video games. Despite this, no legal scrutiny has been given to the copyright status of eSports in the UK context. By using copyright as an analytical tool, this article assesses the conceptual boundaries of eSports to better understand the legal status of this new industry to help inform future regulatory efforts.

In analysing the subject-matter positions of the three key eSports actors—the game rightsholder, the tournament organizers and the professional players—this article concludes that the copyrightable status of a video game results in the control of all further downstream usage of that game. This is in stark contrast to the copyright treatment of its most frequently cited bedfellow—traditional sports.

This article proposes that the interpretation of existing broader principles of copyright may achieve a better balance of interests between eSports actors. In doing so, comparative reference is made to South Korea as the genesis of the eSports industry.

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