Blizzard: Korean e-sports TV "deprives devs of IP rights"

Considering further litigation to prevent StarCraft broadcasts

StarCraft-maker Blizzard is considering taking further legal action against Korean TV stations and e-sports bodies which screen multiplayer sessions of its games.

Speaking at a Seoul press conference on Thursday (as attended by the Korea Times), COO Paul Sams claimed that "It's unfortunate that the e-sports industry in Korea is lagging behind other industries in recognition of intellectual property rights and the basic principles related to them.

"Korea is the only region in the world where we have had to resort to litigation to protect our IP rights."

Last month, Blizzard sued MBC Game and OnGameNet for broadcasting StarCraft II tournaments without the developer's permission. Now the Warcraft firm in considering targeting the Korea e-Sports Players Association (KeSPA), which organises the broadcasts.

Blizzard and KeSPA were formerly partners in Korea for a number of years, but arrangements were severed in May due to KeSPA's unapproved selling on of broadcast rights.

As part of this, the two TV stations in question were ordered to cease StarCraft II broadcasts as of August, with exclusive rights passing to online video company Gretech-GomTV. MBC Game and OnGameNet continued to screen matches after that date, without paying the 100 million won ($86,000) annual syndication fee demanded by Gretch-GomTV.

Claimed Sams, "Back in 2007, KeSPA sold the broadcast rights for 1.7 billion won to cover three years, despite the fact that we never granted them the broadcast rights to sell, and they do not have the rights today.

"The yearly broadcasting fees were five times more than what GomTV is asking for today, so I think it's hypocritical for MBC Game and OGN to complain about the proposal." MBC Game have now agreed to pay GomTV.

Sams refuted arguments by a number of Korean TV bodies, including KeSPA, that e-sports broadcasts should be a free for all. "StarCraft is not a public domain offering, as Blizzard has invested significant money and resources to create the StarCraft game and the overall StarCraft universe.

"Classifying StarCraft and other e-sports as part of the public domain deprives developers such as Blizzard of their IP rights. There will be no incentive to do what Blizzard had done to balance the games for competition, which is a more difficult task than creating a normal game.''

Despite this, Blizzard has not made a final decision as to whether further legal action will be pursued.

Related stories

Hellblade leads with nine nominations at this year's BAFTAs

Horizon Zero Dawn a close second with eight, followed by What Remains of Edith Finch with seven

By Haydn Taylor

Xbox moves venue at E3 2018

Why did Microsoft cross the road? (To get to a bigger venue)

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (13)

James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
This is a bit weird. I mean, do we need Fifa's permission to watch two amateur teams (or new professional teams not in a league that already has IP contracts with TV stations) play football? What about non-active sports like boardgames (chess etc.)..... From the other angle - How about youtube videos? Surely they're also infringing on their IP rights in exactly the same way. I'm not sure of Day9's affiliation with Blizzard either....

So what's it to be? A world where people cannot watch the games you play (that you're playing on controlled servers/services and that you paid for) or a world were there's common sense? Blizzard have an opportunity to make an even better league-watching service than the local Korean networks - they could smash them out of the water quite easily.... are they doing that or just removing competition through political process?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 6th December 2010 6:18pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Andrew Clark Editor 7 years ago
I've never thought about Blizzard creating their own league-watching service. It would be brilliant, like most Blizzard stuff, if they went a head and built some kind of online streaming platform.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic7 years ago
I suspect that kicking a ball around was was 'invented' long before FIFA ever existed, whereas Starcraft II is legally and unambiguously Blizzard's invention and intellectual property. YouTube videos are fine since the authors are neither generating revenue, nor blocking sales by Blizzard itself. Drawing in millions of viewers to watch national tournaments based on their new game is another story. It's laws like that which stop people recording someone else's new song, then selling it round the world without permission.

I like the idea of setting up official Blizzard televised leagues though. I'd watch that over football any day ;-)
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (13)
James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
However, FIFA has its official rules - though anyone can follow them. It's not a perfect analogy but you also can't say Blizzard invented RTS (which would be the 'kicking the ball around' aspect here).

The thing here is that Blizzard aren't "playing" their game..... they're just providing the ability for other people to do so.... so the song aspect has no relevance in this scenario. It'd be like someone playing happy birthday on a guitar (or some other classical piece of music) and the guitar maker complaining that they don't get a cut.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
@ James Prendergast.

The PRS looks after public performances of music. Every song you hear broadcast earns money for the composers/performers.

Why should the makers of a game not be entitled to a cut if their game is used in a commercial venture as is the case here?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rafael Brown Lead Designer, id software7 years ago
@ James,

It's very simple, you can get a ball and play soccer/football without FIFA. You cannot however use FIFA's logos where you play w/o their permission. And You CANNOT play Starcraft w/o copies of Starcraft. If you could you wouldn't need a license from them. Let's put it this way, if you want to run around in costume and LARP and say you're playing 'Starcraft', but not actually call it Starcraft, you're welcome to and you can broadcast that as long as you don't call it Starcraft. But if you boot up Starcraft you are bound to the EULA for Starcraft.

This is no different than the notion that you cannot buy a DVD, setup a theatre, show that DVD movie, charge money, and have no arrangement with the movie creators. Theatre owners 'license' prints for public viewing. Please think about comparable real world analogies before jumping to conclusions. Games follow many of the same rules as other traditional media for legal issues. Owning a media product does not ever give unlimited rights to distribute, broadcast or use the names of said media IP.

And to agree with Robert, the issue is artistic control over IP media created by an artist. This is a common thread through ALL media. An artist must have control over any commercial venture involving their product. If someone doesn't like that, they can go create a competing product that they can have control over. No one, consumer, retailer, distributor, broadcaster, is entitled to have or use an IP just because they want to. The issue is not competing within the product/IP but within the market. Accept the terms of the artist, try to convince them to change their terms, or go find another product/IP.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rafael Brown on 8th December 2010 3:07am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
I see your points and i know it's enforceable by law, i just don't agree with the current 'letter of the law'.

So you both agree with the EULAs that state that only the person who paid for the game can play it? You can't loan, allow someone to watch or switch places with a friend on the same computer?

I'm not against artists being rewarded for their efforts - but the game has already been paid for and they're not competing in the arena in question.

@Robert - the PRS is a joke.... if playing radio loudly is counted as a performance (as was in the mechanic case) then there's something wrong with the world.

I'm an artist too... but i think many artists are too self-entitled to what they create and they take and enjoy many things from those people who came before them who didn't enjoy the same protectionism from the various states and organisations. Legal artistic control was an agreement between society and artists in order to promote the creation of new works (not that works weren't created before and there's an entire argument around reuse, creation incentives and such that i'll try not to get into here) but it's been warped by companies to mean something else. There's no "right" for an artist to profit or control beyond the first sale of their work but it has been put in place. It's too restrictive now compared to how little control there was before the laws were implemented many years ago.

I wonder if you guys burn your CDs, DVDs or torrent or even play songs on your instruments written by other people? Some of those things are covered by fair use (only in the US) but there are plenty of artists that don't even want that to be allowed.... nor even to have lyrics and chords published on the net by people who hear their songs. How far down the rabbit hole is enough for you? And are you a hypocrite for doing some 'illegal'/shady things and yet wanting more control in other areas? I've found that many people are (e.g. making mix tapes/CDs, downloading music but then crying that their movie/game was pirated).
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 7 years ago
Starcraft is an eSport, so essentially a sport. In America can CBS or FOX just throw some cameramen into a stadium and start airing a football game? No. They need the consent of the NFL.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rafael Brown Lead Designer, id software7 years ago
@James I didn't say you couldn't loan the game to a friend, by the notion of most EULAs. I said you couldn't take that game, put it on TV, sell broadcast rights, use the name & IP without permission, use the IP in questionable contexts, make money off advertising connected to the broadcast, sell the DVDs of the broadcast, and basically whore the IP out in any way you chose, while giving the artist no control, no awareness, and no return on investment.

Again, let's make the distinction of fair use between not for profit personal use and commercial market use. The Starcraft lawsuit example is clearly the latter. You loaning the game to someone is the former. Don't conflate these two examples. They are not equivalent. They're not even in the same ballpark.

And for the record, you may consider yourself an artist but you don't appear to be a commercial artist. When and if you get into a commercial industry and see your work pirated to hell you may rethink notions of piracy somewhat. I act like a library. I buy a ton of media. A metric ton. And I loan it to friends and family. Fair use laws are very important. Sharing is important, within bounds. Some media usage falls into a grey area. But commercial pillaging of one's artistic work is not a grey area for anybody. Making money off someone else's work is never fair use. And I'm not talking about selling your used games or ripping your media so you can play it electtronically. And don't try to turn this into a discussion of first sale and used games because that has nothing to do with the Starcraft eSports lawsuit. The issue is whether an entity in another country can pirate your work and then sell the product or sell the rights to it. Very simple.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rafael Brown on 8th December 2010 8:27pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
@ Rafael - i mentioned the loaning thing because they are listed in the EULA as prominently as non-profit uses. Neither are allowed and yet many people do it. You cannot be arguing for the validity of EULAs and yet saying that one thing that is not 'allowed' is okay but that the other thing that is not 'allowed' should not be allowed. That argument makes no sense, is contradictory and hypocritical - which was my point.

You're right, i'm not a commercial artist but then i'm not sure that my view would change even if i suddenly became very successful in that arena. I don't agree with piracy... however, i think my definition of what pirating is must be different from yours.
I disagree that the TV networks are 'pirating' Blizzard's work. They're just filming the visual part of the players who are playing.

@ Richard, that's a bit different because the teams and the players each have IP rights that are separate from the NFL's (and each other's). They can go and send cameras to any amateur league with no licences signed or even games in a park. The point is that the line between people watching someone in their home, or in a school hall on a big screen and on a larger scale on TV is blurry compared with someone trying to sit in on an already established event.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rafael Brown Lead Designer, id software7 years ago
@james - A news station can film a Starcraft session to do a story on it. The issue is not the filming of the event. The issue is the unauthorized negotiation on the behalf of an absent party, commercial distribution of the event, and the selling of advertising rights to the event as if the Korean eSports represented Blizzard. Focus on the money and the permission. This issue is someone deciding for another and then making money off another's work, appearance, name, etc. Could I, for example, film you without your permission and then sell the rights to that as well as advertising revenue to a reality TV show in the UK? That is what you are advocating. It is the unauthorized use and the profit on top of that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rafael Brown on 9th December 2010 2:16am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
Actually, you can film me without my permission - as long as i'm in a public place.

The world is layers of gray.... never is it simple as black and white - though when money is involved, people would have you believe that it is.


You could also extend this logic of 'no permission' to things like cookie filtering/tracking by advertisement firms. You most certainly do not enter into any contract by visiting a website and yet there are little-to-no protections to stop that sort of privacy invasion - yet companies (including Activision-Blizzard) would defend their right to invade your privacy and obtain your identity (and tie the two together)....

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 10th December 2010 9:30pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
kreate7 years ago
but.. if i pay for a copy of starcraft. doesnt it belong to me now?
who is blizzard to say i cant make money off it?

sure blizzard made it and the its their IP.
but i made a purchase. and blizzard got their money.
and if i air it on tv or the internet. is that wrong?

surely the terms of agreement that the starcraft had back in 1997 didnt clarify this issue. and that's the one that i agreed upon. and that's the one on that is being used.

if this was illegal, blizzard should of done something back in 1997. not in 2010. but than again ... blizzard today isnt the same blizzard from the 90's.

*im using myself as an example, im not even good enough to make it into the local tournaments -_-;

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kreate on 25th December 2010 3:22am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.