Online Gaming Threats: Chat Ultraviolence Leads To Jail

online gaming threats

Can you land in legal trouble over online gaming threats? Let’s talk about the issue for two minutes.

Can I Go To Jail Over Aggressive Smack Talk During Online Game play?

Law enforcement officials treat criminal threats like the Supreme Court treats the Constitution — seriously. Plus, FBI identity and tracking tools can smoke the average person from a digital foxhole fairly easily.

How much time could you catch, if caught? Bodily harm threats could fetch a five-year prison sentence; property damage, two years.

When Does Trash Talking Become An Actionable Threat?

The second someone implies, or outright threatens to abuse, rape, stalk, hit, or kill, the legal line has been crossed. Play it safe: keep your smack talk about the match.

Some people make good on their threats. If anybody starts polluting chats with creepy posts, pick up the phone and call your local precinct; they’ll hook you up with the nearest FBI contact, who will take the matter very seriously.

Unsolicited advice nugget: if you plan to go pro, there’s a worldwide audience to worry about. Past statements can — and often do — come back to haunt — especially in today’s digital thunder dome. Don’t let online gaming threats destroy your career.

Can you give me an example of someone who has been arrested for online gaming threats?

Authorities arrested a 28-year-old Heroes of the Storm player (who allegedly also runs a Facebook account called ‘tedbundyismygod1’) for littering the game’s chat — and his Facebook — with ultraviolence threats including:

“I will bomb the new york twin towers [sic]”

“You make me want to shoot up an elementary school;”

He also threatened to “rape and kill” children.

Other players reported the disturbing posts on July 7th; by July 12th, authorities had the alleged culprit in custody.

What should I do if someone threatens me, via chat, during a match?

The same rules apply to online gaming as they do airports: If you see something, say something!

Let’s be frank: unhinged people carry out threats. If somebody starts polluting chats with creepy posts, pick up the phone and call your local precinct; they’ll hook you up with the nearest FBI contact, who will take the matter very seriously.

Got An eSport Issue?

Need professional advice about online gaming threats or another eSport business issue? Internet law firm Kelly / Warner has a top-rated team dedicated to eSport legalities. Let’s talk.

The Legal Lowdown On Pokémon Go Lawsuits & Marketing Tactics

pokemon Go Lawsuits
Here Come The Pokémon Go Lawsuits (& Other Marketing Legalities to Consider)

The micropayment miracle, Pokémon Go (PoGo), currently holds the prize belt for “most popular game of all time,” and in short few months, it’s raked in over $210,000,000. Market experts expect revenues to hit $1.1 billion by year’s end, and savvy brick-and-mortar businesses are PoGo promoting — to huge success.

But, dear reader, don’t be lulled into submission! The Pokémon Go story is NOT all smiles and profits. [DUN, DUN, DUN!]

Oh yes, there’s the dark side of Pokémon Go. The side that’s spawned a PoGo disaster map; the side that’s raised get-off-my-lawn stakes to lawsuit level; the side that has people wondering, “Can I sue Pokémon or Nintendo for injuries sustained in the line of PoGo battling!?”

Is Pokémon Go ushering innocents down a dangerous personal injury path? And if so, can the game’s maker be held liable? Moreover, what legal aspects must be considered when promoting a business through PoGo?

Let’s examine this mobile gaming phenomenon, with legal scalpels.

Pokémon Go Lawsuits

Nintendo aims to “put smiles on people’s faces.” Yet, not every civilian is grinning over Pokémon Go. In fact, two households have definitely NOT caught the PoGo craze; instead…they’re filing Pokémon Go lawsuits — alleging nuisance and unfair enrichment.

Get Of My (St. Claire Shores, Michigan) Lawn

The Place: Wahby Park, St. Claire Shores, MI. A point of pride in a middle class enclave, Wahby is a public recreation area that doubles as a Pokéstop and Poke gym.

The Problem: People who live near Wahby aren’t happy. They claim Poké players are driving on private lawns, parking on public streets, tearing up gardens, and…looking at them! One resident lamented, “I don’t feel safe sitting on my porch!” Another referred to the situation as “a nightmare.” Someone else said she was “afraid to go to sleep,” and a man cursed his lack of prescience, lamenting: “If I knew [Pokémon Go] was coming, I’d have sold my place two months before it got here!”

An online anti-PoGoer warned the game was “ruining the quality of life for many Americans,” and a seemingly committed jingoist, who clearly isn’t a free market proponent, cautioned, “It’s a form of destrictive [sic] society, designed by the Chinese. And it’s a shame [Pokémon Go Players] have the power to vote, because it seems that they are easily brain washed. Which could lead this country to it’s [sic] destruction.”

Local Solutions?: Several residents near Wahby Park did seek redress with the city council — and the council did take steps to remedy the situation, like increasing signage, blocking off private roads, and increasing nightly police patrols. Apparently, however, the measures didn’t satisfy one couple who is moving forward with a Pokémon Go lawsuit.

The Lawsuit: One of the disrupted homeowners is suing Niantic, Inc., The Pokémon Company, and Nintendo Co. Ltd. for “nuisance and unjust enrichment.” Why unjust enrichment? Well, the plaintiffs feel that their lawn, being so close to a public park, has helped PoGo become a financial phenomenon. Plus, the lawsuit “seeks to stop designating GPS coordinates on or near private properties without permission.”

Local Opposition: Some Whaby Park Pokémon players are side-eyeing the plaintiffs. One young father interviewed for a local television station explained his viewpoint:

“For the majority, for the mass populous that comes here to play Pokémon, they’re here to have fun and enjoy the nature and meet cool people. We’re not trying to trespass anybody.”

Likely Outcome: Will the homeowners win? Believe it or not, they have a sliver of a shot. There’s a legal standard known as the “attractive nuisance doctrine,” which says homeowners can be held liable for a child’s death or injury if:

  • The landowner keeps something potentially dangerous on their property (i.e., broken car on lawn, trampoline, pool without fence (in some jurisdictions)).
  • The landowner knows children are around who might trespass.
  • The landowner knows that something on their property may endanger trespassing children.
  • The children are too young to recognize the risk.
  • The landowner can fix the problem at a reasonable cost.
  • The landowner does nothing.

Now, this lawsuit isn’t directly related to children harmed by Pokémon Go, but attorneys could argue that Niantic and Nintendo should have foreseen PoGo’s negative consequences. It’s a stretch, but not an impossibility.

That said, PoGo’s terms of service includes an arbitration clause that, in part, reads:

“[D]isputes between you and Niantic will be resolved by binding individual arbitration, and you are waiving your right to trial by jury or to participate as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class action or representative proceeding.”

Does that mean nobody can ever sue Niantic or Nintendo? Nope. Because also embedded in the ToS is a stipulation allowing customers to opt out of the arbitration clause, via email, within 30 days of downloading.

So, bottom line: who will likely win this Pokémon Go lawsuit? If we’re hypothetically trading Vegas odds, then sure, Niantic and Nintendo probably win this one. But you never know. At this point, we cab only be sure that the Courts and clerks are tackling the issue.

Pokémon Go Marketing: Ideas & Legal Considerations

Marketing gurus agree: If you’re a brick-and-mortar business that isn’t using PoGo to lure customers (pun intended), then you’re missing out on…well…money. As one Reddit user urged, “[Using Pokémon Go to promote] is the greatest investment you can make right now.”

So, how are business owners putting PoGo to work?

  • Bars, pubs and restaurants are becoming Poké gyms, then offering discounted drinks for members of the team that holds the gym.
  • Animal shelters are encouraging people to pick up dogs to walk while they’re out for Poké play, which has led to an increase in pet adoptions (Nice!).
  • Creating power stations for “phone refueling.”
  • Following the game and using social media to advertise when a rare Pokémon is in an establishment.

Are the promotions working? Heck yeah! As another Reddit user succinctly said, “[Pokémon promotions brought him] SO. MUCH. FOOT. TRAFFIC.”

“Put down a lure and watch the customers flow in,” advised another.

Tips To Avoid Pokémon Marketing Pitfalls

  • Account Security: Pokémon Go registration means handing over access to your entire Google account. Though Niantic does a wonderful job at keeping secure, the threat of a breach still lurks. Consider creating a new e-mail for your Pokémon Go marketing efforts in case disaster does strike.
  • Malware Concerns: Malware is starting to spread throughout the Pokéverse. Avoid risk by downloading from a reputable source.
  • Play Nice: Don’t try to sabotage a competitor’s PokéMojo. What do we mean? The app includes a Pokéstop and Poké gym removal form. So, let’s say Frank is in direct competition with Mary. They both own and operate ice cream parlors on Main Street. Being a gamer, Mary adopted Pokémon Go early and started using it to promote her business. It didn’t take long for her shop to become both a Pokéstop and a Poke gym. Frank, saw the amount of foot traffic Mary’s Poké-efforts garnered — and he didn’t like it. One day, when feeling particularly spiteful, Frank decided to sabotage Mary’s success by submitting a Pokéstop / Poké Gym removal request for Mary’s business. Frank’s actions could be considered unfair and deceptive marketing, and he could be fined — heavily — by the FTC. (And so can you, if you “pull a Frank.”)

Expect to read a lot about Pokémon Go lawsuits over the next several months. But the question remains: will the PoGo craze outlasts the lawsuits it spawns? Only time has the answer.

Kelly / Warner is a top-rated law firm that focuses on Internet, startup, and eSport law. To learn more about the firm, jump this way.

Valve Pulls Plug on Skins Trading, Leaving Industry Up In Air

skins tradingLawsuits and criticism sparked by concerns over teen betting have spun the skyrocketing skins trading industry into an uncertain future.

Valve Makes A Stand Against Skins Trading

Video game developer Valve has essentially pulled the plug on an unregulated online gambling economy that was projected to include $7.4 billion in eSports bets in 2016. After being named as a defendant in two lawsuits, the Washington-based company has asked third-party sites that use Valve’s Steam software to stop letting users access Counter-Strike: Global Offensive contests to bet skins, or guns and knives, that are used in the game.

Valve has stated it has no business relationships with the third-party sites, but a federal lawsuit alleges the company knew about the betting, often done by teens, profited from it and tacitly allowed its growth.

Linking Steam

One suit, filed June 23 in the U.S. District Court for Connecticut on behalf of Michael John McLeod and seeking class action status, alleges that Valve and third-party sites (such as CSGO Lounge, CSGO Diamonds and OPSkins) “knowingly allowed, supported and/or sponsored illegal gambling by allowing millions of Americans to link their Steam accounts” to the sites.

The CS:GO matches are streamed online and shown live on TBS television weekly. Because the skins that online spectators wager on the matches can be redeemed for real-world cash, they are essentially casino chips that are won and lost through illegal gambling, McLeod alleges.

McLeod is now a legal adult but was a minor when he bet on matches.

In light of Valve’s central and pioneering role in eSports betting, observers are trying to determine if the company’s actions since being served with the lawsuits will kill the skins trading industry or transform it somehow. At this point it seems there are far more questions than answers about the industry’s future.

The Future of eSports Betting

So far, at least three of the gambling sites, out of dozens in operation, have said they will close down.

The uncertainty raises seven questions about the future of skins trading:

  1. What will happen to skins-for-cash sites? Valve has asked gambling sites to stop letting their users link to and bet on CS:GO contests, but the company has not reached out to sites that simply allow players to redeem skins for real-world cash, such as OPSkins. Regardless of what happens with skin gambling, there will continue to be CS:GO players who accumulate skins in the course of playing the game. They will still be incentivized to turn those virtual weapons into actual cash. OPSkins also serves the function of linking skins sellers and buyers, another thing that distinguishes it from gambling sites.
  2. Could this brighten the future for exchange wagering operator sites? Another major point raised by Valve in its recent announcement was the need to eliminate bot betting. Some gambling sites create bots to place bets that offset those made against the house. One option to eliminate this problem is facilitating betting between users, or exchange wagering, rather than betting against the house.
  3. Could eSports cash gambling continue with heightened geolocation and age verification requirements? Sensitive to the accusation that it was turning a blind eye to underage gambling, Valve threw the baby out with the bathwater when it ordered the gambling sites to shut down completely. Instead, why can’t it tighten its standards and require affiliated gambling sites to follow all local applicable laws, such as those requiring them to verify users are 18 or older? This would allow adults to continue betting skins.
  4. Will esportsbook cash gambling sites enjoy a boost in business? That isn’t likely to happen immediately because gambling cash on professional match outcomes is illegal in every state except Nevada. New Jersey, where gaming interests are lobbying for the legalization of sports betting, recently enacted temporary regulations allow esports competitors to pay a fee to enter matches that pay cash awards to winners. No casinos in New Jersey have started offering such games.
  5. What happens if the CS:GO gambling sites ignore Valve’s order to stop allowing their users access to matches via the Steam API? On July 13 Valve issued an “In-Game Item Trading Update” that stated, “We are going to start sending notices to these sites requesting they cease operations through Steam, and further pursue the matter as necessary.” Six days later, Valve sent cease-and-desist letters to the 23 gambling sites, but only three of the dozens of such sites announced they had shut down or would be doing so (societylogin.com, csgodouble.com and csgocasino.net). After the 10-day compliance window ended, 11 sites had closed down; four sites had closed temporarily but hinted they would resume operations once they could certify they would meet Steam’s contract conditions and terms; and six sites were ignoring the order.
  6. How will the popularity of CS:GO be affected? Valve’s crackdown on the gambling sites could trigger one of two very different outcomes. One on hand, viewership could decline as access to betting options greatly decreases, depending on how vigorously Valve enforces its cease-and-desist orders. On the other hand, interest from sportsbooks could increase, especially if states other than Nevada ultimately legalize eSports betting.
  7. Is there a future for the skins betting sites that comply with Valve’s ceast-and-desist? Skins gambling site CSGO Lounge, the world’s biggest, accounting for about 80 percent of the stream for a typical CS:GO match, has said it will obtain licenses in countries that allow eSports gambling, an apparent nod toward legitimacy. It is looking for ways to maintain a connection with the CS:GO community. But Steam’s terms and conditions contain no reference to gambling. Valve says these third-party sites are violating language in the Steam Subscriber Agreement that prohibits commercial use of Steam. How far Valve would go to enforce language in such cases

ESports Lawyer Talks Contract Considerations & Protecting Players’ Rights

eSports lawyer
eSports lawyer Aaron Kelly talks about the basics of pro-gaming law.

Lucky you! It’s 2016 and “professional gamer” is a legitimate profession. With high-dollar prizes, endorsement deals, sponsorship and streaming opportunities, pro-gaming is officially a booming industry where elite players make bank — just like non-digital professional athletes.

However, getting to the top takes considerable work and business savvy. Skills are paramount, but you also have to build a fan base, find funding, and navigate certain legalities.

So, right now, let’s review a few eSport business considerations.

eSports Law Introduction

ESports law involves issues related to intellectual property, contractual negotiations, and various Internet regulations.

DMCA Annoyances

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices are a profit-halting nuisance for gaming professionals who stream game play. Content-hosting platforms, like YouTube and Twitch, tend to avoid legal tussles with corporate King Kongs. So, they’re more likely to remove content instead of thoroughly investigating every DMCA request.

Legally, the DMCA puts the proof burden on defendants. Most sites use ToS (Terms of Service) agreements that extricate websites from intellectual property disputes involving users’ content. Or, in more basic terms: platforms (in most situations), aren’t responsible for the $#!+ users post.

False DMCA Takedown Requests

What if you’re slapped with a false DMCA takedown? Here’s the good news. First, you’d have to prove it’s an invalid request. If successful, you may be able to recover legal fees, and more, because filing a false DMCA takedown notice is a punishable act.

ESports Contracts

Contracts are a huge part of eSports law.
Straight up: players need to approach negotiations like a boss. Invest in an eSports lawyer to broker endorsement, sponsorship, team or player agreements. Having a well-drafted contract could be the difference between getting screwed and making bank.

Click here to read more about legal issues related to eSports contracts.

Streaming Right Issues

Building a sustainable pro-gaming career means leveraging sponsorships.
But exercise caution: many contracts are freighted with pro-corporate parameters that strip players of creative and business rights. For example, some agreements forbid streaming, which effectively prohibits players from earning money on the side.

Team Relationships

Team contracts are a significant part of eSports law. Unfortunately, sometimes, corporate brass pulls the proverbial legal wool over players’ eyes. Again, to avoid shenanigans (or gaming servitude), work with a professional negotiator who crafts win-win plans for players and teams.

Employment Law Considerations

Thinking of starting an eSports business? Are you a player building a brand? Either way, your eSports business might be subject to tax regulations that could affect future profitability. Plus, if you hire staff — like publicity specialists — you must adhere to employment regulations, which differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; so, location is something to consider.

Consult With An eSports Lawyer

If you’ve read this entire article, then you know this: eSports contracts and negotiations are the foundations of a sustainable pro-gaming career. For the best profit potential, and opportunity autonomy, team up with an eSports attorney that knows the niche well.

Aaron Kelly is a passionate hobby gamer and top-rated lawyer who works with pro-gamers. He is a grandmaster of contract drafting. Even better? One of his partners, Daniel Warner, is an incredible litigator (his photographic memory helps).

Get in touch today with a Kelly / Warner’s eSports lawyer questions and needs.

eSports Law 101: Contract Advantages and Legal Agreements

esports contracts lawyer

State of the eSports Union: The Economic Forecast Is Exceptionally Favorable

Interested in eSports? Well then check out these facts and figures:

  1. Last year, every month, more than 90 million gamers logged onto Twitch, a streaming arena where fans can live chat with other spectators while watching eSport matches. (It’s the 21st century equivalent of going to a baseball game, without the stress of traffic and parking.)
  2. Last year, pro-gaming teams generated about $750 million in revenue; North American teams earned $224 million.
  3. Currently, video game publishers and event arenas are making the bulk of the money because many players are chained to unfavorable contracts.
  4. According to industry experts, eSport revenues will reach multi-billion-dollar territory within two years.

So, what does all this mean for pro- and semi-pro players? It’s time to protect your profits and professional freedoms.

How Do Cyber Athletes Earn Money?

No longer reliant on competition purses, so-called “cyber athletes” earn money in a number of ways. In addition to winning prize money, they can:

  1. Generate revenue through game play subscription services, like Twitch.
  2. Make advertising dollars through streaming channels.
  3. Join a professional, salaried team.
  4. Secure corporate sponsorships and endorsements. Currently, mostly publishers and developers establish partnerships. However, as eSports grow, lifestyle companies, in search of unique branding opportunities, are also wooing gamers.
  5. Write and self-publish playbooks and blogs.

eSports Contracts: What Players Should Consider Before Signing

Whether it’s an agreement between companies and players, players and teams — or some other combination — contracts are the heart of professional eSports. Here’s a list of things cyber athletes need to consider before signing on the dotted line.

  1. Sponsorships: The ideal player contract should be hyper-specific with meticulously defined expectations. Looking to work with several sponsors simultaneously? Triple check the fine print for exclusivity clauses.
  2. Advertising: Agreements should specify advertising parameters, for both players and sponsors. Do you want different rules to apply to certain types of advertising opportunities? These types of questions must be considered.
  3. Event Participation: For player and team contracts, it’s wise to include a season schedule that lists event participation expectations and related earnings percentages.
  4. Duration: Team contracts should stipulate start and end dates. Also, most include some sort of contract extension clause.
  5. Agency: Do you want free agency stipulations? Make sure it’s in your contract.
  6. Employment Laws: U.S.-based pro-gamers must consider employment laws in their respective jurisdictions. If not, you could suffer serious headaches related to health insurance, hours of service, overtime and off-season compensation.
  7. Subscriptions: If a sponsorship or endorsement contract is contingent on subscription statistics or viewer numbers, performance goals and compensation must be detailed in the contract.

ESports Contract Drafting & Negotiations

Aaron Kelly, Daniel Warner and Raees Mohamed help pro-gamers and eSports teams with business and legal needs. A pioneer in gaming and Internet law, we’re an ideal fit for established and emerging cyber athletes and organizations.

Are you ready to speak with an experienced, down-to-earth attorney about a gaming business or pro-gaming contract?  Get in touch today.

eSports Law: Rapid Growth Presents Unique Legal Challenges

eSports law and lawyer


eSports is expected to be a $2.9 billion industry by 2017. Not surprisingly, the niche is weathering growing pains — and players are bearing the brunt.
With that in mind, let’s review some eSports law issues affecting players.

eSports Law: Venue Control

Unfortunately, a large chunk of eSport-related profits are derived from privately controlled event venues. Since teams and individual gamers don’t have a stake in the arenas, they typically miss out on merchandising, concession, ticketing, and broadcasting revenues.

How can teams and players combat this arguable inequity? By making a concerted effort to protect whatever income they do control — like endorsements and sponsorships. Without doing so, players and teams may never enjoy the thing they deserve — consistent income. Other professional athletes are well-compensated. So should be the case for cyber athletes.

Intellectual Property

Game publishers and commercial organizations typically own and control intellectual property (IP) born out of the eSports industry — especially when it comes to tournaments and leagues. Generally speaking, game-related-IP for players is limited. Unlike traditional sports teams and clubs, which usually copyright and trademark and license IP, eSports teams and organizations still haven’t gotten that far. For instance, individual gamers don’t usually own their avatars. However, a few professional gamers have been able to successfully protect and exploit their online handles.

Endorsements and Sponsorships as Revenue Streams

Currently, the most reliable income for players are endorsements and sponsorships. Contracts for such partnerships must explicitly outline ROI expectations and scope parameters. If executed sloppily, gamers’ rights issues tend to rear their ugly heads. Furthermore, the agreements mustn’t be open-ended or overly restrictive (i.e., locking up teams and players for excessive periods of time. Otherwise, cyber-athletes will have to choose between a flexible approach, which leaves open the possibility for future profits, versus more secure income avenues, in exchange for less flexibility.

Additional eSport Legal Issues

eSports are a global phenomenon. As such, it’s sometimes difficult to determine which country’s laws govern a given event or contract. As more cases hit the courts, laws and precedents regarding eSports will become clearer. However, many players may lack access to international courts, and this should be addressed in endorsement and sponsorship agreements.

eSports Law: A Look At The Months Ahead…

A wide array of high-profile events are coming up in eSports in 2016. The trend is only expected to intensify over the next several years. Considering how much money is being generated, it’s easy to see why.  It would be a real shame if the organizations and companies — not the teams and players — are the only ones who stand to profit. Let’s all hope that players and teams develop the ability to go to bat for themselves and ensure that they aren’t left out.

Online Poker Lawyer Legalization Update: March 2015

online poker lawyer
What states currently allow online poker? Consult an online poker lawyer today.

California lawmakers are taking W. E. Hickson’s advice to heart: They’re “trying, trying again” to ram an online poker legalization bill through the State Assembly and Senate. This attempt marks the 6th in which Golden State politicians have tried to pass an Internet gaming law – and several proposals are floating amongst the two houses.

Why are California’s officials grappling with the issue? And why do they keep revisiting the seemingly impossible? The answers: control and taxes, respectively. Since gambling is a highly regulated industry, lawmakers can’t compromise on who should have a bite of the online gaming pie. But, many politicians want to fill depleted state coffers with gaming tax dollars. So, despite the disagreements, they keep trying to pass a bill.

States That Allow Online Poker

Internet gaming lawyers
Kelly / Warner: Online Poker Lawyer For Internet Gaming Consultations

In 2006, the federal government banned online poker. In 2011, it lifted the ban.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware already allow state-regulated online poker websites. Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and Texas have all considered – or are currently considering – online gaming legalization.

Additionally, a First Nation’s tribe in California is operating a poker website exclusively for New Jersey residents.

Contact An Online Poker Lawyer

Since the federal online poker ban is a thing of the past, opportunities are opening in the online gaming space. If you’re considering an Internet poker startup and need the advice of an attorney, get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law. A pioneer in the field of Internet law, Kelly / Warner works with tech startups and entrepreneurs.

Are you ready to consult with an online poker lawyer? Kelly / Warner founding partner Aaron Kelly is the firm’s Internet gaming aficionado; get in touch here.

StarCraft: South Korea’s Public Enemy #1?

Forget Justin Bieber, in South Korea, StarCraft superstars reign supreme in the eyes of tweens. Don’t believe me? Behold:

But now the South Korean government wants to go all Susan Powter and stop the insanity. That’s right. Officials believe 125,000 of their countrymen are suffering from serious gaming addictions, so authorities are screaming for Regulations! Rehab! Revenue!

The Doctor Evil-esque plan to curb gaming in South Korea

  • Step One: Declare video gaming an “antisocial addiction” on par with drugs, alcohol and gambling.
  • Step Two: Start a “just say no [insert video game]” campaign while simultaneously limiting the amount of advertising (a la Joe Camel in the U.S.).
  • Step Three: Collect 1% of revenue from gaming companies; use funds to pay for a government-run, “Gaming is Gambling!” campaign.

Oh My Gosh! REALLY!?

Why do South Korean authorities think gaming is in need of taming? In 2011, a man and wife killed their baby because of a gaming addiction. The parents only fed the child once a day, and the infant died of malnutrition. Shockingly, the couple neglected their baby because they spent all day raising a virtual baby in an online game. As you may imagine, since the incident, many people have been calling for gaming restrictions.

Parents Are The Same No Matter Time Nor Place

Ninety percent of AARP-eligible (and adjacent) South Koreans are all, “Hell Yeah!” about the proposed gaming sanctions. “We need to create a clean Korea free from the four addictions [drugs, gambling, alcohol and gaming],” opined lawmaker Hwang-yea. And weighing in for Team Mom was Kim Min-Sun, who champions gaming restrictions because, “without online games, kids would talk to their mother and play.”

“We’re Not Drug Makers, Mmmmmmk.”

The rest of the population – especially “Internet-lifers” – aren’t stoked about the crackdown. A spokesperson from the Korea Internet and Digital Entertainment Association succinctly quipped, “The 10,000 people employed in the game industry are not drug makers.”

Why Are Video Games So Popular In South Korea?

Why is video gaming so popular in South Korea? Some people point to the lack of leisure opportunities for teenagers. Other people blame the country’s insanely competitive school system, arguing video games are the best way to unwind after a grueling day at school.

South Korean Officials Love Game Regulations

This is not the first time the South Korean government has tried to regulate online gaming activity. Back in 2011, officials passed a law banning gaming between midnight and dawn for people under 16. Somewhat of a legislative bomb, the law is currently on appeal in Korea’s Constitutional Court.

Can I Sue For Defamation Over Gaming Smack Talk?

hand with cards to represent poker game that devolved into defamation lawsuitSometimes competition is friendly, sometimes it’s downright nasty, and sometimes you end up in court.

Two poker players in Namibia let it get to the lawsuit level, and now one has to pay the other for full tilt trash talking.

Adriaan Christiaan Byleveldt and Lance Cotterell engaged in a poker game. Things got heated and according to reports, words were exchanged. Instead of leaving the beef at the table, the conflict lasted long after the game ended. According to reports, Byleveldt ended up calling Cotterell the Afrikaans word for the female anatomy in an email that was sent to a large group of people.

Now, defamation laws in Namibia aren’t quite as free speech friendly as they are in the United States. And believe it or not, Cotterell won the email defamation lawsuit! The judge awarded him 10,000 Namibian dollars ($1,025 US) in damages and made Byleveldt also pay Cotterell’s legal fees.

Byleveldt, however, is refusing to pay the punishment fines, as such a warrant of execution against property was issued upon the losing defendant.

If you’re wondering if this case would have turned out differently in the United States, the answer is yes. Simply calling somebody a name won’t get you far in an American defamation lawsuit, but it may elsewhere – including the United Kingdom.

To learn more about international defamation laws, check out our slander and libel database. If you need to speak with an attorney well-versed in international online defamation law, get in touch with Aaron Kelly, founding partner of the Kelly Warner Law firm.

Total Biscuit and Wild Game Studio are Beefing

game developer lawsuitsA dust up in the gaming world is making headlines. Looks like Wild Game Studio is going toe-to-toe with venerated game reviewer, John Bain, a.k.a., Total Biscuit. And it doesn’t look like the biscuit is backing down. Day One: Garry’s Incident, a first-personal survival game, is at the center of the controversy.

It all started when Wild Game gave Total Biscuit a copy of Day One to review. Unfortunately for Wild Game, Total Biscuit wasn’t impressed and let his criticism rip in a review, which presumably angered the studio. “I just feel that companies that don’t have enough practice should, under no circumstances, be attempting something as complex as an open-world first-person survival game,” opined Bain. “Because it will just be dreadful, and this game is astonishingly bad,” he concluded.

In an attempt to mitigate the negative onslaught, Wild Game issued a copyright infringement complaint against Bain over the review, citing the advertising on his site as proof that he was unjustly enriching off the alleged violation.

As is often the case, the peanut gallery is split. Some developers are enjoying a bit of schadenfruede, while pirate sympathizers aren’t impressed with Wild Game.

Oh, and hey, don’t forget that Kelly Warner Law represents both game developers and freelance reviewers. Basically, we’re all about all things digital. Get in touch if you need a gaming, technology or Internet law attorney.

 

Game Developer Harassment: Can You Sue? Is It Worth It?

faceless figure in front of a target to represent game developer harassment
Online harassment of developers is at an all-time high. Can they sue their detractors? Is it worth it?

This summer, Polygon published an engrossing article by Brian Crecente about the escalation of online game developer harassment. An in-depth exploration on the topic of developer harassment, Crecente interviewed industry folks who’ve been ridiculed and threatened over contentious issues in the fandom. According to the article, the situation is now so grim that the International Game Developers Association is considering the establishment of a developer harassment support group.

In the article, Adam Orth, Stephen Toulouse and David Vanderhaar shared their personal developer harassment tales. In April, Orth, a former Microsoft employee, had the unpleasant task of tweeting about Microsoft Studios’ “always-online” consoles. The responsibility resulted in a backlog of death threats on his social media accounts. Toulouse, who left his position as Xbox Live’s head of policy and enforcement two years ago, said he still gets messages like, “I am going to kill you and I’m going to find you and destroy you.” Once, he was even swatted (prank callers sent a swat team to his house), but the police didn’t do much to punish the perpetrators. Like his colleagues, Vanderhaar, who announced a few minor changes on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Twitter, was also pelted with violent threats.

Why Is Developer Harassment On The Rise?

Co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Sameer Hinduja, explained, “when individuals are online they are sort of separated from their conscience and from social conventions and morals and norms and even the law, and they feel a little bit more free to say what they want to say. It’s almost like we’re reverting to our primitive tendencies where we didn’t know rules of social decorum and so forth.”

Simply put: increased connectedness leads to an increase in developer harassment. Back in the day, when Atari ruled, you could complain to your neighbor Bobby about level three of Adventure, but Bobby was most probably your sphere of influence. Because unless you pulled out a paper and pen (or your Brother’s word-processor), wrote your screed long-hand (because txt-spk didn’t exist back then), looked up the address (which would probably require a trip to the library to access nationwide phone books), got a stamp and mailed it, the chances of complaining directly to a developer were slim.

Increased connectedness leads to an increase in developer harassment.

But these days, a scathing diatribe is a finger swipe away. And since most fans don’t know the targets of their rage, the appropriate behavior Rubicon is often crossed. In some regards, developers aren’t seen by fans as actual people (especially in the middle of a fit), but as the game itself. The phenomenon is almost akin to cursing out your lawn mower when it’s not cooperating.

When asked about the rise of developer harassment, Nathan Fisk, lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, opined, “I think fans harass developers for a range of reasons, but again, it is always about power and position. Game developers are in many ways becoming public figures as they openly interact with gaming communities and social networking technologies have made making contact a simple process.” Fisk also believes gamers are dealing with some legitimate “industry trends which are genuinely manipulative and restrictive,” but he cautions it is not an excuse.

The phenomenon is almost akin to cursing out your lawn mower when it’s not cooperating.

Can A Game or Software Developer Sue A Fan or Critic?

video-game-lawyerAll of this talk about developer harassment got us thinking: Should a developer take legal action against trash-talking fans? Does the reward outweigh the risk? Does a game or software developer even have a decent chance at winning a lawsuit against an overzealous, threatening fan- boy or girl? What charges could the victimized developer claim if he or she decided to sue? Do developers have a legal recourse if the harassment goes overboard? In a word, yes – because even free speech has its limits.

Threats of Death or Bodily Harm – It’s never legally acceptable to threaten death or bodily harm. Telling a developer that you are going to find them and kill them is technically against the law. All a developer has to do is walk into their local police station in the morning, and the FBI could be involved by the afternoon.

Defamation – If a false statement of fact is made in a screed about a developer, that developer, technically, could sue for libel. In order for the developer to win, however, he or she would have to prove that the statement caused material harm, that the defendant acted with reckless disregard for the truth and that more than one person saw the statement in question. In other words, the lie must be published on a public forum, like Twitter, and it must cause material harm for the developer.

Infliction of Emotional Distress – If you’re hounding a developer repeatedly, with vitriol, that developer could go after you for either intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Commonly known as the tort of outrage, emotional distress actions can be hard to win, but blatant threats of bodily harm or death often prevail.

Criminal Stalking Charges – Another legal option available to beleaguered developers is filing criminal stalking charges, but only if the perpetrator is constantly on the hunt.

Is Suing the Fandom For Developer Harassment Worth It?

Should I sue for defamation?
Should developers sue for defamation?

OK, so we’ve established that developers get flamed a lot online, and we’ve established that if a developer chooses, he or she can take legal action. So now we have to ask: Is suing over online smack talk worth it?

In the Polygon article, Jennifer Helper, a former BioWare narrative designer admitted that harassment can be tough to handle, especially the death threats against her kids over the storyline of Dragon Age II. However, Helper was quick to also point out the positive flip side: copious amounts of support she gets from fans. So ask yourself: is it worth the possible PR hit your reputation would take in the gaming world if you went legal over a handful of over-the-top detractors?

A Game Developer Harassment Support Group May Be On The Way

Oftentimes the emotional impact of stalking or harassment is tough to handle alone. As such, the International Game Developers Association is looking to establish a support group for victimized parties. Kate Edwards, a spokesperson for the group explained, “It’s gotten onto our radar. We’re getting to a point where we’re thinking, “Yeah, it’s becoming something we’re going to need to talk about. It might be more explicit support group or mechanism to help people who are dealing with this sort of thing.”

Do you have any pressing legal questions about online developer harassment? Set up a confidential consultation with Kelly Warner Law today.

Legal Online Poker In The U.S.?

Online poker lawListen up American poker enthusiasts, for the time is nigh. A bill legalizing online poker has finally found its way to the hopper. Entitled the “Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013,” HR 2666 was introduced by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). In short, if passed, Barton’s bill would make it easier for states to establish their own online poker laws and regulations. It also officially categorizes poker as a game of skill, thereby exempting it from action under other online gaming laws.

Poker Is A Game Of Skill, And That Should Make All The Difference…

Since the Illegal Gambling Business Act only criminalizes “clear games of chance,” HR 2666 accomplishes the legalization of online poker by defining it as a game of skill. Using case law precedence to support the notion of poker’s inherent skill element, the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013 will be a hard law to knock down on legal grounds. (Social grounds are another issue.)

The Internet Poker Freedom Act Could Open A Whole New Job-Creating, Revenue-Generating Market Right Here In the U.S.

Proponents of the Internet Poker Freedom Act maintain that passing the bill could open up a new market benefiting the private sector, in addition to federal, state and tribal governments:

“United States consumers would benefit from a program of Internet poker regulation which recognizes the interstate nature of the Internet,” the bill says, “but nevertheless preserves the prerogatives of States and Federally recognized Indian tribes.”

OK, So What Types of Regulations Are Included In Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013 Bill Proposal?

HR 2666 confers strict licensee operator regulations. Under the draft proposal:

  • Licensee operators would have to put measures in place to keep minors from participating.
  • Licensee operators would have to implement a system for identifying and handling problem gamblers.
  • Licensee operators would have to ensure that players from non-participant states are prohibited from playing.
  • Licensee operators must allow players to limit losses.
  • Licensee operators must work to prevent money laundering.

Will This Online Poker Law Be The One To Finally Pass?

Barton is not a stranger to online poker legislating. In 2011, the Texas politician introduced HR2366, the Online Poker Act of 20i1. It didn’t pass. HR2666, however, may have better luck as people seem to be ready for an online gambling option. Plus, the revenue generating possibilities are attractive to reelection-seeking politicians looking to improve their communities’ economic situations.

The Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013 includes provisions to help ensure honest business practices. It calls for an “Office of Internet Poker Oversight,” to be set up in the Department of Commerce. It also has a “fair and honest”clause to crackdown on rigged games.

All in all, HR2666 “The Internet Poker Freedom act of 2013” is a comprehensive, long-considered online gaming bill. Now we just have to wait and see if our lawmakers bite. If they do, we may just see a whole new, revenue-friendly marketplace develop around online poker.