First university research center for eSports law founded
Professional competition in video games is booming. This raises many new legal questions, which are the focus of a new research center at the University of Augsburg.
Augsburg / NN / PS / MH - The first university Research Center for eSports Law (FeSR) has been founded in Germany at the University of Augsburg. The FeSR is an independent institution of the Faculty of Law and deals with the multitude of legal issues that have been arising for some years now due to the rapid growth of eSports.
Professional sports used to be football on the pitch, handball in the sports hall or alpine skiing on the slopes. Now, athletes also practise their sport sitting in front of screens and clicking mouse buttons. In eSports, video and computer games - whether sports simulations, strategy games or egoshooters - are played in professional competitions. There are leagues, rankings, fans and a mid three-digit number of eSports professionals in Germany who earn enough money to make a living from it. The established sports and football clubs in Germany also supplement their divisions with electronic sports because of the economic boom: according to a Deloitte study, 48 percent of respondents are already familiar with the term and its meaning. Moreover, by 2020, eSports will be a global, booming market with estimated sales of just under 1.3 billion euros.
In what sense "eSports" can be considered "sports" in the traditional sense and should be treated as such in legal terms is a central question - although by no means the only one. The legal consequences connected with its status as sports are of particular importance, inter alia, for the laws concerning employment, tax and the protection of minors, or for sports betting fraud and gambling law.
What is the position regarding the non-profit status of eSports associations? Which standards apply to occupational safety for professional computer and video players? What about the risks of corruption and criminality in eSports? What does cheating mean in terms of copyright infringement (e. g., by bots)?
"Numerous legal challenges, which have already been arising for several years, but have only become increasingly relevant to society due to the rapid growth of recent years, led us to establish our own research center for eSports Law at the University of Augsburg. The peculiarity of the topic is that new stakeholders meet well-known conditions (e. g., classical sports law) and future challenges", says the Augsburg lawyer Prof. Dr. Martin Maties, who heads the research centre. He founded the academic institution together with the Augsburg lawyers Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Kubiciel, Nepomuk Nothelfer and Philipp Schlotthauer in January 2019.
The aim is to conduct legal research in the field of eSports to support the development of the industry. The research interest is further reinforced by economic considerations - eSports is a very fast growing branch of the economy.
Academic exchange and consultation with politics and the economy
In addition, the FeSR sees itself as a contact partner for politics, ministries, associations and companies. In February, for example, members of the research centre travelled to Berlin on the occasion of the hearing in the Sports Committee of the German Bundestag as to whether eSports should receive equal treatment as traditional sports. There, they talked to representatives of the parliamentary groups and the industry. The legal aspects of eSports were discussed in many individual conversations, and the FeSR was able to raise many current and future legal issues and challenges.
However, the intention is also to encourage academic exchange of views. In addition to lectures and conferences, the subject is to be further promoted by the Centre’s own series of publications for eSports. An initial conference on eSports law ("Politics, Practice and Academia in Dialogue") is already planned for the 17th of May 2019 at the University of Augsburg, where industry stakeholders and legal scholars will meet for joint discussions on legal topics concerning eSports.
The research center has met with considerable approval since its formation by legal research colleagues as well as representatives from politics and practice. For example, member of the Bundestag Britta Dassler, the chair of the Sports Committee and a member of the Bundestag parliamentary group eSports and Gaming, says: "I am pleased about the great popularity that eSports enjoys. Young people come together to organise competitions and compete together and against each other. They deserve the same funding opportunities and social acceptance as traditional analogous sports. It is important that academic bodies, such as the members of the Research Center for eSport Law at the University of Augsburg, dedicate themselves to the major legal issues and legal loopholes raised by the integration of eSports into existing sports law. There is a tremendous need for research in this area at the moment."
Contact for media inquiries
Prof. Dr. Martin Maties
Head of Research Center for eSports Law, University of Augsburg
Tel .: 0821/598 - 4595
Home page of the Research Center: https://www.esport-recht.de