Seminar Talk 2012-11-28

Owning e-Sports: Proprietary Rights in Professional Computer Gaming

Dan Burk, Law, UC Irvine

Among the most significant commercial activities to emerge on the Internet, both in terms of revenue generated and numerical participation, has been multi-player gaming.  Such Internet gaming increasingly includes professional play.  Starting in South Korea, which offers 24-hour television coverage of virtual competitions, and now spreading internationally, such “e-sports” feature the structure of team owners, sponsorships, leagues, prize money, and star players that have long been familiar in physical sport competitions.  But because these competitions are played in a virtual environment, control of rights to the matches is anything but familiar.  Ownership issues were highlighted in a recent high profile dispute between Blizzard corporation and the Korean e-sports players association, when the latter attempted to negotiate television broadcast rights for tournaments played on Blizzard’s StarCraft platform.  As e-sports become increasingly established  in the United States and Europe, unsettled questions of copyright, right of publicity, and neighboring rights will need to be resolved among players, team owners, and developers of e-sports.

Dan L. Burk is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at theUniversityofCalifornia,Irvine, where he is a founding member of the law faculty.  An internationally prominent authority on issues related to high technology, he lectures, teaches, and writes in the areas of patent, copyright, electronic commerce, and biotechnology law.  He is the author of numerous papers on the legal and societal impact of new technologies, including articles on scientific misconduct, on the regulation of biotechnology, and on the intellectual property implications of global computer networks. Professor Burk holds a B.S. in Microbiology (1985) from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (1987) from Northwestern University, a J.D. (1990) from Arizona State University, and a J.S.M. (1994) from Stanford University. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Irvine, he taught at the University of Minnesota.  He has served as a legal advisor to a variety of private, governmental, and intergovernmental organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union Committee on Patent Policy and the OECD Committee on Consumer Protection.