Why hello there Reddit! I'm Ryan Morrison, a video game lawyer who works with everyone from indies to AAA studios and publishers. If it's happened in the games, esports, or digital entertainment industries, it's likely I've dealt with it. I'm here to answer anything you have for me, but please keep all questions about Rampart (sorry, old dumb joke). I’ve done a number AMAs in the past (both here and in the /r/gamedev subreddit) and am looking forward to doing one again today!

**My Proof:**

[My law firm](http://morrisonrothman.com) - Morrison Rothman LLP (we are looking for summer interns and contract attorneys)

[My talent agency](http://evolvedtalent.com) - Evolved Talent Agency

[My podcast where I teach my least legally knowledgable high school friend the law each week](https://headgum.com/robot-congress) - Robot Congress

[My twitter](https://twitter.com/Morrison)

**DISCLAIMER:** Nothing in this post creates an attorney/client relationship. The only advice I can and will give in this post is GENERAL legal guidance. Your specific facts will almost always change the outcome, and you should always seek an attorney before moving forward. And even though none of this is about retaining clients, it's much safer for me to throw in: THIS IS ATTORNEY ADVERTISING. Prior results do not guarantee similar future outcomes.

Comments: 87 • Responses: 16  • Date: 

RustyAsian26 karma

You've been a big inspiration for me, as someone who aspires to practice law in the esports industry one day. What was your career path like, from law school to where you are now as one of the pioneers of esports law?

VideoGameAttorney49 karma

I appreciate that more than you know, so thank you. My career path is a very strange one but hopefully helps show anyone can get here with enough hard work.

My father was incarcerated (partly for emptying my bank account), and I was forced to drop out of college. I only open with this because it's important to know that my entire scholastic career I was operating with literally nothing to lose. I got a job at a burrito restaurant working 60 hours a week to pay rent (shout out to Bomber's Burrito Bar). I saved enough to get back into school and I started working with a game studio in NYC. At the same time, I got into law school and interned for a solo attorney who showed me a lot about what building a practice looked like (I also worked for Anthony Weiner at the same time he tweeted out his genitals, but that's another story).

When I graduated, King (the parent company of Candy Crush) was throwing a lot of muscle around their use of the trademarks for CANDY and SAGA. I wrote a few articles on why that was not okay, worked with the IGDA on a white paper to formally oppose their registrations, and would do constant AMAs on Reddit explaining the issues and why indies should trademark their games. Reddit called me Video Game Attorney, I ran with the marketing, and all of a sudden I had a law firm with a large enough following to keep a roof over my head.

I partnered with the smartest and hardest working people I could find, and we would do countless pro bono (free) hours of work a week for people who could not afford an attorney. Eventually, esports players started reaching out saying they had not been paid. We solved that in a few quick phone calls, and soon I was representing hundreds of them, all without charging a dollar. However the hours really piled up and I was not sleeping, ever, and I don't recommend that lifestyle.

The players eventually started coming to us for more than legal, and that's when it made sense to open Evolved Talent Agency. I have separate partners and staff there, and together both companies help the industry in different ways.

Every single step of the way people told me to not do this. They said I would fail, asked why I chose to make so little when I had nicer job opportunities, and just frowned on the idea that this was a legitimate career. Don't listen to those people. There will always be time for a steady job after you've at least attempted making your dream work. If you have legitimate interests, I urge you to network your BUTT off. Don't miss important events, work those extra hours to get to things like GDC and E3 (when they aren't cancelled), and just shake hands and get business cards until someone hires you. It works.

jabberwockxeno14 karma

Something which was in the news not too long ago was Nintendo subpoenaing Discord, 4chan, and I also believe reddit to try to track down the source of leaks from Pokemon Sword and Shield, not just of the original leaker who was presumbly under NDA, but also other people who that person gave images two who presumbly were not under NDA or even employed in the games industry.

What legal right does Nintendo actually have to pursue these people in that case, given that, per the court document linked, Nintendo was purseuing the leakers on Trade Secret violations not copyright infringement?

VideoGameAttorney20 karma

Unfortunately due to involvement I can't speak on this one :(

AsABlackMan9 karma

In two sentences or fewer - what is the Erie doctrine?

VideoGameAttorney23 karma

Nice try, my first year law professor.

dglidds9 karma

Through parody law, couldn't 2K put in players who refuse to give their likeness to them, such as Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley, but name them like Meggie Riller and Barles Charkley?

VideoGameAttorney27 karma

Nope! The only thing in law (relevant to games) that's more misunderstood than parody is fair use. Parody, like fair use, is a defense. It's basically saying, yes we're infringing, BUT it's okay because...

However, to get that okay, you'll need to go all the way through the process of litigation and get a judge or jury to approve it as a parody. Nothing about your example, in my opinion, is a parody. It's just a halfhearted attempt to get around very basic likeness rights (but hey, A for effort, haha).

We see this quite often in games. Bario will come in as a side character in an indie game and then the devs will be shocked when Nintendo asks them to remove the clear infringement. It's a complicated question because something like this can involve trademarks (names/logos/slogans - Think Pokemon or even major character names like Pikachu), copyrights (the actual art assets - so think the design of Mario), and likeness rights (these are state based and vary wildly, but prevent you from calling Lebron something similar while still using his looks, voice, number, etc.).

So long answer short, no, this would not work.

ScoobyMaroon9 karma

What are your thoughts on nvidia and GeForce Now? Companies are pulling their games off it and are mad they weren't asked/compensated.

The way I see it GeForce Now is just letting me play games I already own on rented hardware. What say you? Is there some nuance I'm missing?

VideoGameAttorney15 karma

Part of the rights you are granted when you have a copyright is the right to control reproductions of the work. Since this is taking something on your computer and reproducing it elsewhere, the rights holder would be able to have it removed. Additionally, it is common for publishers to have valid and totally enforceable legal grounds to prevent players from using virtualization to play games, even if those players have already purchased the game. Players typically agree to such terms when they download the game and agree to the End User License Agreement, also known as the "EULA".

The EULA typically outlines the conditions under and devices on which you can play the game. Blizzard's EULA, for example, prohibits "playing their Game(s) at commercial establishments" other than authorized publicly-available cyber cafes or computer gaming centers. While you may not have read that when you first booted up your game, it's still enforceable. There's also something to be said about GeForce Now's commercial use of the games it offers on its service, as it's technically charging users to provide access to the gameplay. Most terms of use and EULAs do not allow you to use the product for commercial purposes.

qwertyson968 karma

Without naming any names, what are some of the craziest cases you've worked or heard of with the esports players? Also, any cool moments in your career you've particularly enjoyed?

VideoGameAttorney29 karma

I had a player woken up in the middle of the night and told to fire me immediately or he would be kicked out of the house. This was because I was attempting to get his league to honor the doctor's order that he should not play due to an injury. Unfortunately, he fired me, the league did not intervene, and the team forced him to play. As a result, he worsened his injury and one of the most promising players around had their career cut short.

smokin-n-knittin8 karma

As a video game attorney, what is the number one issue/court case you've been hired for? Also, do you get hired by companies for specific things, or is it a more general "we're hiring you, just in case" type of thing

Thank you for doing an AMA! This will be interesting

VideoGameAttorney11 karma

I’d say lately it’s been privacy compliance, as we are one of a handful of firms who understand all the new privacy laws, especially within the context of this industry. That said, we do everything from intellectual property to corporate law and have a staff of people I trust immensely to handle each area.

The issue is companies coming to us after a fire, rather than in preparation of next steps for their business. Obviously, handling things early on is way cheaper and way easier.

iamontoya6 karma

Are copyright laws and regulations apply internationally? Like if someone from the United States came up with a game idea and put some kind of copyright claim on it, would someone from Russia be able to steal that intellectual property without repercussion?

VideoGameAttorney10 karma

Most intellectual property laws are nationally registered, however some international databases exist and there are treaties that governed protection across borders. That said, there are countless times when the EU may have a trademark and the US has an exact replica but with a different owner. When push comes to shove in those examples things get a bit more complicated.

However, what is most important to keep in mind, is that some countries are "first to file" and some are "first to use." That said, the internet has changed just about everything. If I can access your website or your game or your whatever from my country, you're liable there just about every time. Same thing though, you're also establishing intellectual property rights there. Make sense?

vertigounconscious6 karma

is Evolved a TAA abiding talent agency? or an ‘agency’?

VideoGameAttorney12 karma

Easy google if you don't believe us, but we are 100% compliant. In fact, we are the only licensed agency in esports (that I'm aware of), save for the big guys (CAA, UTA, ICM, IMG, WME) who have dipped their toes in.

Uniqueusername3606 karma

What’s your favorite movie?

VideoGameAttorney16 karma

Serenity. Firefly fo' life.

DrHivesPHD5 karma

Is your name Phoenix wright by any chance?

VideoGameAttorney11 karma

No, but we're both made of pixels.

jbrake4 karma

I've got a little experience with contracts in my day job and have reviewed so many ones sent by orgs (especially in the FGC) that are predatory at best.

What would you specifically recommend as clauses for players to watch out for or negotiate for to protect themselves?

As an aside, I sponsor players in the PNW with my personal funds while trying to find them sponsors with actual money. I would love to design a quality contract for them, is that something your firm does and if so, what is the process of hiring your firm to help facilitate that?

VideoGameAttorney15 karma

Esports contracts really are all over the place from the truly abusive, the truly stupid, and the "meh, fine." There are very few "good" deals for players, as the majority of teams still control just about everything in the players lives (they demand control of sponsorships, IP licensing, uncontrolled fines, etc.) It's incredibly difficult negotiating better deals, because many owners will call the player directly as the attorneys are trying to work something mutually beneficial out and quite literally bully the player into "sign now or you're gone. If your attorney asks for too much we're just going to find someone else." So my advice to players would not be to look out for a specific clause or two, it's to NEVER sign anything without a player and without a separate agent.

Although my one piece of general advice is don't sign anything that isn't paying you. If you're joining a team that's taking prize money, demanding you do things for them, and controlling any aspect of your career...all without paying you...why? Go join a clan in the game instead. They're free.

[deleted]2 karma


VideoGameAttorney4 karma

It's certainly a lot more than that :)

[deleted]1 karma


VideoGameAttorney6 karma

Tons! There's no such thing as video game law in any real sense. Instead, it's every area of law through the lens of video games. As a result, my firm is very busy keeping up to date on various different areas. But hey, makes it fun!

Steaknkidney451 karma

Is E-sports a passing fad or here to stay?

VideoGameAttorney10 karma

Every day a baseball fan gets too old to work his remote and a new esports fan is born. It's here to stay, but that hyphen is not ;)

Steaknkidney450 karma

I'm 32 and don't play video games. Maybe I'm a rare breed?

VideoGameAttorney6 karma

I'm 34 and obsessed with the NBA and NFL, but if you can't see the powerhouse that is esports I think that's an intentional blind eye towards it. Every year the prize pools grow and bigger stadiums sell out in seconds for live events. It's exciting!