Law of the Level

Sheppard Mullin Base

Musicians and gamers are no strangers to each other; the two industries have been capitalizing on the crossover of their respective fan bases for nearly a decade. Although these collaborative efforts are not news, the utility of virtual and remote fan engagement has been re-contextualized in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. As the average musician derives the overwhelming majority of their revenue from live performances, technologies that can simulate these experiences have taken on a new importance virtually overnight.…
On Thursday April 30, 2020 U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley announced their intent to introduce the “Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping” Act, with the goal of “… Banning U.S. Officials from Using Tencent, … [and] Other Chinese Communist Party-Backed Platforms.” Specifically, the legislation requires that the company that creates the prohibited technology be “domiciled in the People’s Republic of China or subject to influence or control by the Government of the People Republic of China or the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China” (“China”).  Given Tencent’s investments and involvement in some of the most popular…
There has been a wave of celebrity lawsuits against game companies over in-game dance moves allegedly made famous by the celebrity. A number of legal theories have been tried, including trademark, copyright, right of publicity, misappropriation of likeness, etc. Nearly all of these claims have failed. A recent decision from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a motion to dismiss on seven of eight counts brought. The sole surviving count relates to a false endorsement claim under the Lanham Act. Leo P made two claims under the Lanham Act, the second being for false designation of origin was dismissed by…
The Washington State Federal District Court recently issued a decision stating: “Washington’s definition of ‘gambling’ only reaches ‘staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence’ and that “[m]ost games not derived from casinos involve some amount of skill and would thus be unlikely to meet the statutory definition.”…
In a controversial decision, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that a head-to-head, daily fantasy sports (DFS) contest was predominately skill based and thus not gambling. Despite agreeing with the appellate court’s conclusion that the DFS contest at issue was not gambling, the Court disagreed with much of the appellate court’s reasoning.…
Microsoft has announced a partnership with Enjin to offer a blockchain based recognition program. Azure Heroes aims to reward individuals for verifiable acts of impact such as coaching, creating demos, building sample code, blogging about Azure or completing certain challenges. Community members that have demonstrated their contributions will be recognized with badges across a number of categories. Azure Heroes is branded as a new and fun way to earn digital collectibles for meaningful impact in the technical community.…
Money laundering is no game. Yet, some games have been used for money laundering. That’s what prompted Valve to announce that it would end the online sales of loot box “keys” for its game Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS-GO). As of last week, Valve indicated that CS:GO container keys purchased in-game can no longer leave the purchasing account. Thus, they cannot be sold on the Steam Community Market or traded. Pre-existing CS:GO container keys are unaffected–those keys can still be sold and traded. These CS-GO keys have historically been traded on the Steam Community Market as well as third party websites.…
Earlier this month, a set of gaming industry representatives agreed upon and released a set of unifying esports principles. These representatives include the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), as well as associations from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the UK, and Europe. These “Principles of Esports Engagement” were developed in a collaborative effort and form a set of values applicable in all aspects of the global esports environment.…
As real-world celebrities continue to expand the reach of their persona into the digital realm, the potential benefit for advertisers, game developers and esports event promoters is exceedingly high. But with increased opportunity comes increased risk. A New York Supreme Court recently addressed this risk when it construed the State’s right of publicity statute[1] in a dispute over an NBA 2K18 video game avatar. In Champion v. Take Two Interactive Software, Inc., celebrity basketball entertainer Phillip “Hot Sauce” Champion sued the video game developer, alleging violation of his right to privacy for Take-Two’s use of his name and…
*This article was originally published in Law360 on June 8, 2019. Electronic sports, known in the industry as “esports,” has seen remarkable growth in the last decade. The term “esports” refers to the growing world of competitive, organized video gaming, where professional video gamers play on a variety of different video game platforms and video games (“esports titles”) in heavily attended and publicized competitions and tournaments. These competitions are watched by millions of fans across the globe on TV or online, and by others who attend live esports events. Expert projections have shown that this year will be especially significant,…
In a closely watched case, a New Hampshire federal court has ruled that the Wire Act is limited to sports betting and set aside the DOJ’s recent opinion to the contrary. However, it limited the scope of its declaratory relief to the parties and deferred a decision on whether to extend the declaratory judgment to non-parties on behalf of the Lottery Commission, but gave the Lottery Commission 14 days to file an appropriate motion and supplement the record with adequate factual and legal support on that point.…
In a lawsuit filed yesterday against esports entertainment organization, FaZe Clan, Turner Tenney (“Tfue”), a twenty-one year old professional gamer and streamer alleges that the exploitation of young, unsophisticated content creators (streamers) has become standard in the esports industry, and that he is a victim. Tenney claims that the “gamer agreement” he signed with FaZe Clan when he was twenty years old is illegal for multiple reasons – he alleges that it is “grossly oppressive, onerous, and one-sided,” because it entitles FaZe Clan to a finder’s fee of up to eighty percent (80%) of the revenue paid by third-parties for…
FinCEN has issued updated guidance addressing the use of crypto currency and other convertible virtual currency (CVC). A portion of this guidance addresses the use of CVC in games. The guidance does not establish any new regulatory expectations. Rather, it consolidates current FinCEN regulations, guidance and administrative rulings that relate to money transmission involving virtual currency. In 2011, FinCEN issued a final rule (“Bank Secrecy Act Regulations – Definitions and Other Regulations Relating to Money Services Businesses,” 76 FR 43585 (July 21, 2011)) defining a money services business (“2011 MSB Final Rule”). The 2011 MSB Final Rule made clear that…