Protect Your Esports Events: Some Legal & Business Practices For The Production of Live Esports Events
By Justin M. Jacobson, Esq.
With the recent global explosion in esports and professional gaming, there has been a substantial expansion in the frequency and magnitude of live esports events. These include events produced by established event organizers such as ESL and Dreamhack as well as those hosted by smaller independent companies who create and plan their own live esports competitions. However, in light of today’s COVID-19 situation, many businesses in the live event production spaces have cancelled or otherwise re-scheduled their existing events. Therefore, it is important that an organizer is aware of some potential legal protections and beneficial business practices that might be adopted by a company that produces and hosts competitive gaming events. This article will also explore some of these legal protections as well as explain other tactics that may be useful for successfully navigating any unforeseen and potentially event ending circumstances that could occur.
When creating an event, it is important to utilize proper name protection for the event or series name. This might include conducting a trademark screening search to determine the availability of a name as well as to evaluate any ones that might block the organizer’s use of an event name. Once a search is conducted and it is clear, the event planner should file a federal trademark application in the United States as well as in any other countries that they may operate in to secure exclusive rights to the event name. This is especially important if the organizer intends to create a series of similarly named gaming competitions.
Once an event is conceptualized, it is crucial to secure a venue or access to some other space to host the event. In this respect, it is advisable for the organizer to enter into a written agreement with the venue or premises owner. This agreement should include all of the essential facts related to the operation of the event, such as date and time as well as any refreshments or other catering options. This document should also list who is responsible for providing and paying for any event security as well as any other operational staff. It also best practice to include any cancellation terms as well as “force majeure” provisions.
A “force majeure” clause provides one or both parties with the right to terminate, suspend or otherwise “toll” an existing agreement as a result of the occurrence of a specific event. While not an exhaustive list, since every agreement can be edited by the parties, such events could include acts of God such as hurricanes or earthquakes, wars, riots, and “health” epidemics or pandemics, such as COVID-19.
Some events may require the organizer to rent audio, video or other technical equipment. In these cases, it is beneficial to create a written rider listing the parameters and conditions of the transaction. This is particularly important when dealing with expensive or fragile materials. Furthermore, if a sponsor or brand partner is involved in the event, it is prudent to have a written sponsorship agreement in place that clearly outlines each party’s obligations.
Once an event planner secures the rights to a location, there are a variety of other “licenses” or “permits” that might be required when producing a live event. Some of these might include a business license, a liquor license, or other health permit when serving any food to attendees. An event creator might acquire a variety of insurance policies to protect their event. One policy might be for any potential injuries suffered by an event attendee, which might be general commercial liability or some other type of event liability insurance. An owner may also obtain business interruption coverage, which can cover a loss resulting from business stoppage. A purchaser could also obtain force majeure insurance, which could provide remuneration for any financial consequences of a “force majeure” triggering event.
Finally, if the event has live music, the company might need to secure a public performance license from the applicable performing rights organization. Additionally, when hosting paid tournaments and other commercial events, the organizer might also need to secure licenses from the game developers. This might be from companies such as Riot Games or Activision-Blizzard.
Overall, there are a variety of legal and business considerations that an esports event organizer must be aware of in order to fully protect themselves from the unexpected. The above information is for educational purposes only, as a professional or other qualified individual in the field should be consulted to determine a person or a company’s particular needs.
This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.
© 2020 The Jacobson Firm, P.C.