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Online Gaming Threats: Chat Ultraviolence Leads To Jail
Originally Posted: Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
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 willtake 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.
The Legal Lowdown On Pokémon Go Lawsuits & Marketing Tactics
Originally Posted: Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
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.
Valve Pulls Plug on Skins Trading, Leaving Industry Up In Air
Originally Posted: Thursday, August 18th, 2016
Lawsuits 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Originally Posted: Friday, August 5th, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
eSports Law 101: Contract Advantages and Legal Agreements
Originally Posted: Monday, August 1st, 2016
State of the eSports Union: The Economic Forecast Is Exceptionally Favorable
Interested in eSports? Well then check out these facts and figures:
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.)
Last year, pro-gaming teams generated about $750 million in revenue; North American teams earned $224 million.
Currently, video game publishers and event arenas are making the bulk of the money because many players are chained to unfavorable contracts.
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:
Generate revenue through game play subscription services, like Twitch.
Make advertising dollars through streaming channels.
Join a professional, salaried team.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Event Participation: For player and team contracts, it’s wise to include a season schedule that lists event participation expectations and related earnings percentages.
Duration: Team contracts should stipulate start and end dates. Also, most include some sort of contract extension clause.
Agency: Do you want free agency stipulations? Make sure it’s in your contract.
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.
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 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.
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 Legalization Update: March 2015
Originally Posted: Monday, March 9th, 2015
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
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?
Originally Posted: Thursday, December 19th, 2013
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. Since the incident, 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?
Originally Posted: Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Sometimes competition is friendly, sometimes it’s downright nasty, and sometimes you end up in court.
Adriaan Christiaan Byleveldt and Lance Cotterell played a poker game. Things got heated; words were exchanged. But instead of leaving the beef at the table, the conflict lingered after the last card was laid, culminating in Byleveldt calling Cotterell the Afrikaans word for the female anatomy in a mass email.
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. The judge also made Byleveldt pay Cotterell’s legal fees.
Byleveldt, however, is refusing to pay — which is causing him some additional legal problems.
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 in another jurisdiction.
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.
Total Biscuit and Wild Game Studio are Beefing
Originally Posted: Friday, October 25th, 2013
Wild Game Studio is going toe-to-toe with venerated game reviewer, John Bain, a.k.a., Total Biscuit. Day One: Garry’s Incident, a first-personal survival game, anchors the controversy.
The beef began when Wild Game gave Total Biscuit a copy of Day One to review. Unfortunately, Total Biscuit wasn’t impressed and let his criticism rip. “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.
Wild Game wasn’t thrilled.
To mitigate the negative onslaught, the studio issued an infringement complaint against Bain, citing advertising on his site as proof of unjust enrichment.
As is often the case, the peanut gallery is split. Some developers are enjoying a bit of schadenfruede, while pirate sympathizers aren’t impressed.
Game Developer Harassment: Can You Sue? Is It Worth It?
In the piece, Adam Orth, Stephen Toulouse, and David Vanderhaar shared their stories. Orth had the unpleasant task of tweeting about Microsoft Studios’ “always-online” consoles; unhappy players pelted him with death threats. Toulouse, who left his position as Xbox Live’s head of policy and enforcement, said he still gets messages like, “I am going to kill you and I’m going to find you and destroy you;” he was swatted. And like his colleagues, Vanderhaar, drew the short straw and had to announce a few minor changes on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2; upset players flooded him 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.”
Or to put it another way: Back in the day, when Atari ruled, you could complain to neighbor Bobby about level three of Adventure, but Bobby and the other block kids were probably your entire sphere of influence. The chances of you connecting with the developer were between slim and none.
But these days, an overwrought diatribe is a finger click away. And in some regards, development teams aren’t seen as people, but as the game itself. The phenomenon is akin to cursing out a lawn mower when it’s not cooperating.
When asked about the rise of developer harassment, Nathan Fisk, a 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’s not an excuse.
The phenomenon is akin to cursing out your lawn mower when it’s not cooperating.
Can A Game or Software Developer Sue A Fan or Critic?
All this talk about developer harassment got us thinking: Should game staffers take legal action against trash-talking fans? Does the reward outweigh the risk? Can software developers win lawsuits against overzealous, threatening fans? What charges could the victimized developer claim if he or she sued?
Threats of Death or Bodily Harm – It’s never legally acceptable to threaten bodily harm. Stalking and threatening a developer is against the law. If you’re a victim, simply walk into a police station and start talking.
Defamation – If someone makes a false statement of fact about a developer, said developer could sue for libel. To win, however, he or she would have to prove that the statement caused material harm, that the defendant acted with (at least) 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 developers they 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 do prevail.
Criminal Stalking Charges – Another available legal option is criminal stalking charges, but only if the perpetrator is constantly on the hunt.
Is Suing Over Developer Harassment Worth It?
We’ve established that developers can take legal action against detractors. Next question: Is it wise to sue?
In the Polygon article, Jennifer Helper, a former BioWare narrative designer admitted that harassment can be tough, especially when users lobbed death threats at her kids over the storyline of Dragon Age II. However, Helper was quick to point out the positive flip side: the copious amounts of support she gets from fans.
Ask yourself: Will the lawsuit be a waste of money, or will it help? Only you can answer that question. Sometimes, some people just need to be shut down with a lawsuit. Other times, they just need to be ignored.
A Game Developer Harassment Support Group May Be On The Way
The emotional impact harassment is tough to handle alone. Therefore, the International Game Developers Association is looking to establish a support group for victimized parties. Kate Edwards, a spokesperson, 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 a more explicit support group or mechanism to help people who are dealing with this sort of thing.”
2017 Update: Alas, American poker enthusiasts, the 113th Congress did not pass the Internet Poker Freedom Act. But, for archival purposes, the old article is posted below.
Alas, American poker enthusiasts, 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 ),” Rep. Joe Barton is fronting the act.
If passed, states will have an easier time implementing online poker regulations. The law would also re-categorize poker as a game of skill, exempting it from action under other online gaming laws.
If Poker Is A Game Of Skill, That Makes All The Difference…
Since the Illegal Gambling Business Act only criminalizes “clear games of chance.” So, HR 2666 simply defines online poker as a game of skill. Using case law precedence to support the argument, the veracity of the proposal will be difficult to knock down on legal grounds. (Social grounds are another issue.)
The Internet Poker Freedom Act Could Blow Open A New Market
Proponents of the Internet Poker Freedom Act hope the proposed law will create a profitable new market.
“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.”
What Provisions Are Included In Internet Poker Freedom Act?
HR 2666 confers strict licensee operator regulations. Under the draft proposal licensee operators would have to:
Establish age-verification measures;
Implement gambling-addiction measures;
Ensure cross-state regulatory compliance;
Allow players to limit losses.
Work to prevent money laundering.
Will This Online Poker Law Finally Pass?
Barton is no stranger to online poker legislation. In 2011, the Texas politician introduced HR 2366, the Online Poker Act of 2011. It didn’t pass. HR 2666, however, may have better luck. After all, the revenue generating possibilities are attractive to reelection-seeking politicians pandering to constituents who’ve become very comfortable with online life.
The Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013 includes provisions honest business provisions, calls for an Office of Internet Poker Oversight, and features a “fair and honest”clause to thwart the potential for rigged games.
All in all, HR 2666 — a.k.a., “The Internet Poker Freedom act of 2013” — is a comprehensive, long-considered, online gaming bill. Let’s see if our lawmakers bite.