The Evolving Legal Landscape of Esports: Challenges and Opportunities

Posted On - 24 June, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

The fast rise of esports as a worldwide sensation has fascinated not just countless fans, but also brought along many complicated legal problems. These difficulties find their way through contracts, player rights and intellectual property to regulatory issues. As the world of esports changes, it is more important for everyone involved, players, teams sponsors or regulators to comprehend and handle these legal complexities.[1]

The Rise of Esports

In the last ten years, esports have grown from being a unique interest to becoming a big part of popular entertainment. It now has audiences similar in size to those for regular sports events and gives out large amounts of money as prizes, with major businesses putting big investments into it. Predictions say that by 2024,[2] esports will create $1.62 billion in income because of many different ways like advertising, sponsorships and having rights for broadcasting matches.

Contractual Challenges in Esports

Player Contracts: At the core of every pro esports career are player contracts. These deals handle numerous financial elements, like salary details, prize money distribution methods, division of income from merchandise and sponsorship agreements among others. Salaries provide a constant source of income for players while prize money and sharing in revenue give them extra motivation based on their performance and attractiveness to the market. Players with top-level skills can dictate deals worth several million dollars, underlining why it’s crucial for players to grasp contract details carefully to increase their income and safeguard their rights.

Sponsorship Agreements: In esports, sponsorship is an important way to make money. It makes complex contracts between players, teams and brands. These agreements can be about more than just playing games – they might include promoting things or making content too. Making sure players’ rights to their image and content are protected while also getting the most possible financial benefit from these deals is a crucial part of negotiations for such agreements. Issues of understanding or vagueness in these contracts can cause big legal arguments​.

Status of Employment: One very disputed legal matter in esports is the sorting of players into either being employees or independent contractors. Depending on this classification, players could claim different employment rights like minimum wage, overtime pay and health protection. While being an independent contractor can give more flexibility to players, it also means they are not provided with the stability and protections that come along with employee status. These factors underline the importance of players having clear knowledge about their contracts and organizations correctly categorizing their players, so as to prevent any legal troubles.

Dispute Resolution: In esports, because of the large amount of money involved and fast increase in popularity, disagreements are bound to happen. Typical problems can be about contracts not agreed upon, misbehavior from players or breaking rules regarding intellectual property. To solve conflicts quickly and without spending too much money, methods like arbitration or mediation are becoming more popular in handling disputes within the esports industry. This can guarantee a just result without needing extended court cases.

Player Rights and Protections

Fair Compensation and Benefits: In esports, it is crucial to give fair compensation because players spend a lot of time practicing and participating in matches. This should cover not just their basic salaries but also a reasonable part from tournament winnings, streaming incomes, as well as good performance rewards.[3] Often times contracts have provisions for sharing revenue made by selling merchandise or getting sponsorships which can greatly increase the money a player earns​.

Health and Safety: Even though esports are mainly played virtually, participants can still suffer from health problems like RSIs because they use gaming equipment for a long time continuously. Also, the tense setting may result in mental health difficulties for players. It is necessary that teams and organizations offer gamers ergonomic devices as well as resources for mental wellbeing including support systems.

Unions and Bargains: The idea of player unions is becoming popular in esports. This could be a way to negotiate for better deals and safety for players. Unions may assist in balancing the power between players and organizations, promoting for improved working circumstances, more equitable contracts, and superior compensation. Although it is still early days, the creation of player unions can greatly shape the future of this industry by offering a collective bargaining platform for gamers.

With the complexity of esports contracts and possibility for disagreements, players are going more towards having legal representation to check and discuss their agreements. Professionals in law can make sure that contracts are fair, easy to understand and follow the laws related, it helps protect rights of players and reduce risks involved.[4]

Intellectual Property in Esports

Esports Content: Intellectual property (IP) rights in esports cover various kinds of properties, like content inside the game, images of players and team symbols.[5] Players and teams need to confirm that their IP rights are well stated and safeguarded in agreements. This involves knowing who holds the rights for streams, avatars used during games within it as well as any merchandise related with them. Lack of evident IP protection can lead to players and teams losing their control on brand and content.

Enforcement and Monetization: Just like the industry itself, ways to take advantage of and enforce IP rights also change. Game publishers, who usually have big IP rights, are key players in this system. Smart methods for IP include deals about licenses and fresh ways to make money that use branding chances from esports. To make sure of long-term profitability, it is crucial to apply these strategies for maximum commercial worth of IP assets​.

Regulation Issues: The matching up of traditional IP laws with the virtual realm of esports has its own difficulties. Numerous pre-existing IP rules were set in place way before digital technology came about to create what we see as modern esports today. This means that those involved must deal with a complicated law setting which frequently needs adjusting and inventiveness for safeguarding and applying correctly Intellectual Property rights.

Regulatory Landscape:

The esports industry currently lacks a unified control structure, resulting in varying standards and methods across different regions. Organizations like the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) are crucial for enforcing conduct standards. They address issues such as cheating, match-fixing, and doping to ensure fair competition. However, the absence of a standard regulatory body makes it challenging to maintain consistent enforcement and protect the interests of all involved parties.


The rapidly evolving esports law presents both challenges and opportunities for all involved. As the industry expands, understanding and adhering to legal rules is crucial to safeguarding players’ rights, respecting intellectual property, and promoting fair competition. The complex nature of esports requires the involvement of legal experts and the development of robust legal frameworks to support its growth as a professional, lucrative field. Ensuring legal awareness at every step, from advertising and broadcasting rights to team contracts and sponsorships, is essential for the continued development and success of esports.




[4] The Rise and Rise of eSports: The Issues and Opportunities, 14 World Online Gambling L. Rep., no. 8, Aug. 2015.


King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

Click Here to Get in Touch

New Delhi | Mumbai | Bangalore | Chennai | Hyderabad | Mangalore | Pune | Kochi
Tel: +91 11 41032969 | Email: