You boot up Fortnite. You’re really good at it. You’re confident you can get your Victory Royale. But you still wouldn’t head straight to Tilted Towers without thinking about it first…
Welcome to our second article on red flags in gamer contracts. If you’re new here I highly recommend you check out our first article here before continuing. This one gets a little complicated! Let’s start by looking at some common traps in contracts and then we’ll move on to dispute resolution.
Game time and competitions:
You have a contract, and perhaps a place on a team, but is it clear how often will you play – and in what sorts of competition ? The worst case would be a ‘zero-hours’ contract, which imposes various restrictions on you without guaranteeing any work or pay. But it might be almost as annoying to be paid but ‘left on the bench’. After all, players need both practice to build their skills and exposure to build their reputation. Also, not all competitions are equal. Appearance in poorly-rated competitions might do little for your skills or reputation. You will want to appear in competitions appropriate for your rank.
Part of being in a team involves taking part in promotions of the team. That is generally in everybody’s interest. But does the contract allow the org to use your image in other ways that might not be beneficial to you? For example, how would you feel about the use of your image to promote betting? Even if the use is acceptable, should you be sharing in the profits (from the sale of ancillary materials, bearing your name or picture)?
What other work or gaming activities can you take on?
This is particularly important if the contract does not guarantee you enough game time or money. If such a contract requires you to give up all other work, or not to work for competing companies, you will end up on benefits. But even if you have a decent contract of employment, consider whether you would want to be able to do a deal to promote, for example, particular gaming equipment. Many pro gamers stream their content, and indeed many teams require it to attract sponsorships. But will you be allowed to continue your old one (Or start a new one)? Are there any restrictions on the sort of advertising you can allow, or products you can promote on those streams? In a worst-case scenario, imagine if you got noticed because you had built up a huge personal Twitch or YouTube following, then you signed the rights to your stream over to the org as part of the contract. Now they own your channel.
What happens when you leave?
There will usually be an agreement that either party can bring the employment to an end on a period of notice, (or perhaps at the end of a season). A short notice period means flexibility, but less security. Too long a notice period might mean that you cannot accept the very tempting offer from a rival team. Some contracts will allow the team to put you on paid ‘gardening leave’ while the notice is being served out. That might be pleasant enough for a short period, but putting your career on hold for a longer period might be undesirable. Watch out for ‘non-compete’ clauses. These would limit what you can do after you leave. It is reasonable to ask you to keep secret genuine secrets of the team you have left (strategies planned for future competitions, for example). But it will rarely be acceptable to be required not to work for a rival team, even for a limited period.
No contract covers all circumstances, even the longest ones out there. The gaps are filled in by the ‘governing law’ (e.g. ‘English law’), which can also override the contract in certain circumstances (e.g. by invalidating some ‘non-compete’ clauses). The laws of different countries differ in their treatment of many of the matters discussed above (e.g. non-compete clauses and image rights). It is advisable to specify the governing law and for the contract to be drafted with the provisions of that governing law in mind.
How and where should any dispute be resolved?
Any resolution should be quick and cheap. Many contracts include provision for court action in the employer’s home country – which may be wholly impractical for the employee. Others will provide for arbitration. The main advantage of arbitration is confidentiality, but that is often more of concern for the employer than the employee. And arbitration is not necessarily quick or cheap; it can sometimes add an additional layer of dispute.
So why do you need a lawyer?
If you don’t have questions after reading all of the above, then you’ve not been paying attention! If you have been paying attention, you will know you need help. Edge Esports will soon be producing a platform that will help players and teams, and even brands and leagues, through this complicated legal maze full of traps and confusion. Meanwhile, follow us on twitter, send us a DM and we shall see what we can do!