Copyright and Joint Authorship as a Disruption of the Video Game Streaming Industry

58 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2021

See all articles by W. Michael Schuster

W. Michael Schuster

University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business

John T. Holden

Oklahoma State University

Date Written: January 23, 2021

Abstract

Video game streaming on sites like YouTube and Twitch is now a billion-dollar industry. Top streaming personalities make tens of millions of dollars annually, as viewership of video gameplay continues to expand. While video game companies’ control over intellectual property embodied in video games is largely accepted, streamers’ rights in their recorded gameplay have yet to be settled.

Game companies likely maintain the right to stop unauthorized streaming of gameplay, but most do not exercise that right, as streaming represents free advertising. This raises the related question of what rights streamers have against unauthorized use of their gameplay. It also raises the question, unexplored in the literature, of what rights gameplayers maintain when competitors in their online games stream their matches.

We find that copyright can provide protection to streamers over the audiovisual recordings of their play, subject to contractual limitations imposed by game companies. Our analysis likewise establishes that gamers whose play is streamed by another party may qualify as joint authors of the streamed recording. This co-authorship could result in multi-millionaire streamers owing an accounting to other players appearing in their streams. The Article then explores the potential business implications associated with these findings and discusses potential strategies to protect the interests of game companies and streamers.

Suggested Citation

Schuster, W. Michael and Holden, John, Copyright and Joint Authorship as a Disruption of the Video Game Streaming Industry (January 23, 2021). Columbia Business Law Review, Vol. 2020, No. 942, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3771877

W. Michael Schuster (Contact Author)

University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business ( email )

Brooks Hall
Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

John Holden

Oklahoma State University ( email )

464 Business Building
Stillwater, OK 74078-0555
United States

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