Welcome to our second opinion piece by Jeremy Paton. Each opinion piece we run on Forge Gaming Network reflects the thoughts and feelings of its author(s) and as such will be biased and subjective, you have been warned. These pieces are our writers attempt to rationalise and make sense of a game, a piece of news, movies and anime or an ongoing trend in the world of video-games. Our opinion series will occasionally have two authors discussing and debating a topic however, today’s post is a single author’s opinion
This weekend the popular League of Legends subreddit /r/leagueoflegends, blew up with a shocking abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The riot started over, what for all intents and purposes, appears to be an illegal DMCA request issued to an individual identified only as SpectateFaker, by the streaming service Azubu.
In order to try and represent the events which have unfolded over the past couple of hours we have divided this post into a timeline narrative.
February 11 – The beginning
The controversy actually started over a week ago when the streamer identified as SpectateFaker claimed he had received a DMCA request from the streaming service Azubu.tv. The DMCA request, in layman’s terms, requested that SpectateFaker immediate ceases to live stream, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, solo-duo games. Now, one may ask two questions at this point: Why would Azubu send this request and secondly why would people watch this stream as opposed to “Faker’s” own?
Creating an opportunity to capture some of the pro-player’s performance which may have been otherwise missed.
The later is actually quite easy to answer. “Faker” is an immensely popular League player who is known for his impressive skill at the game, naturally this attracts interest in his own solo-duo games and unsurprisingly “Faker” streams his own games on the streaming service Azubu. However, the primary reason why an alternative stream, such as the SpectateFaker, would be popular is that it was being broadcast on Twitch.tv which has a far larger audience than Azubu and this is especially true in the west.
Interestingly, another value of the SpectateFaker stream was that the owner was streaming many of “Faker’s” games which he himself was not streaming, creating an opportunity to capture some of the pro-player’s performance which may have been otherwise missed.
However, it is the first question which is where the actual controversy starts. Why would Azubu send a DMCA to the SpectateFaker. The reasoning for this lies with the organisation known as KeSPA (Korea e-Sports Association). KeSPA controls the Korean eSports scene and has created contracts between players, teams and streaming services. This is the main reason for only finding “Faker” on Azubu, simply put, he is only allowed to stream on Azubu.
This contract is of course financially beneficial to Azubu, due to the popularity of “Faker”. “Faker’s” Channel is one of Azubu’s biggest assets, therefore, at first it is not surprising that Azubu did send the DMCA request.
February 13 – Story gains media attention, or does it…
Following the events of the 11th, Travis Gafford, popular eSports journalist for onGamers brought the story to media attention with a write up on Gamespot.com titled: Twitch Streamer Claims He Received Unfair DMCA Takedown From Azubu. In his write up was included the start of the email which SpectateFaker received from Twitch:
“Dear Twitch Broadcaster:
The content you streamed and archived on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/spectatefaker was the subject of a takedown notice we received from Azubu pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). This organization has asserted that it owns this content and that you streamed that content on Twitch without permission to do so. As a result we have cleared the offending archives, highlights, and episodes from your account and given you a 24 hour restriction from broadcasting….”
Here is the fundamental legal issue. Azubu does not have any form of ownership of the content which SpectateFaker was broadcasting, this is made clear in Riot Games’s own legal jibber-jabber. The reason for this is due to the method which SpectateFaker uses to steam League of Legends games which “Faker” is in. Here are two extracts from Riot’s own legal document:
“No Licensing. Generally, you cannot license your videos to any third party for a fee or other value without our approval. However, there are important exceptions:
Partner programs with YouTube or the following streaming websites: own3D.tv, Ustream.tv, Twitch.tv, Justin.tv, Blip.tv (no prior permission from us required).”
“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein, you acknowledge and agree that you shall have no ownership or other property interest in your account, and you further acknowledge and agree that, other than your limited access to use the account, all rights in and to the account are and shall forever be owned by and inure to the benefit of riot games. You acknowledge and agree that you have no claim, right, title, ownership or other proprietary interest in the game assets.”
SpectateFaker uses a very similar method as spectating your own friend in a game. However, as SpectateFaker does not have “Faker” as a friend and also is on a different region (server) to him, he has utilised the website op.gg, a popular statistic and analysis website which plugs into Riot’s own API. By using op.gg SpectateFaker is able to see if “Faker” is in a game and spectate that game, without using the actual League of Legends Client.
What is therefore streamed is not a re-stream of “Faker’s” own stream…
What is therefore streamed is not a re-stream of “Faker’s” own stream, and as has been pointed out on Reddit’s /r/leagueoflegends and by Travis Gafford is that the ownership of the SpectateFaker stream belongs solely to Riot Games, and only they can legally send a DMCA to Twitch. SpectateFaker is basically providing an alternative method to spectate Faker rather than using this convoluted spectator system.
Surprisingly, Travis Gafford’s write up on the incident and the abuse of a DMCA did not spark all that much concern in the gaming community at first.
February 20 – Travis’s video & StarLordLucian
Following his write up the week before, Travis posted a video on Ongamers.com to further explain the situation and emphasize why, “…everyone should be concerned about the SpectateFaker Azubu takedown.” We have included the video below and highly suggest you watch it:
The video is quickly syndicated to Reddit and finds it’s way to the front page. Naturally this is where a ton of misinformation is spread, but overall it appears users agree that SpectateFaker is not doing anything illegal and there should be no reason for him to stop, DMCA or not. Along with this comes a debate about whether SpectateFaker is negatively impacting on “Faker’s” own stream, it certainly seems he is attracting views to his stream over “Faker’s”, but at the same time he is also heavily promoting “Faker’s” Azubu channel.
With the attraction which Reddit brought to the SpectateFaker vs Azubu dispute, the owner of the stream known on Reddit as “StarLordLucian” decides to post his view on the incident in order to clarify the growing number of misnomers, in a post to /r/leagueoflegends titled:
“I’m the admin of “SpectateFaker” – after reading Travis’s article and double checking all the legal facts I’ve decided to continue the livestream and stand up to Azubu’s false DMCA claim.”
StarLordLucian clarifies that at no point has he monetized the stream and that his system is automated, checking op.gg to find out if “Faker” is in a game and if so to spectate the game and start the the Twitch stream. He also explains that due to the controversy surrounding the stream the new donate button’s proceedings will be going to a charity of his choosing:
“I have not made any profit off “SpectateFaker” or intended to. My stream is not partnered.”
“The charity I chose is for a young girl named Josie who has an incurable neurological disease called FOXG1”
Shockingly, many people just didn’t seem to understand the difference between SpectateFaker’s stream and “Faker’s” own stream. The fundamental point is that SpectateFaker is not rebroadcasting “Faker’s” stream, he is using his own client to spectate the game and broadcast his own client, he is as much steaming “Faker”, as he is streaming “Faker’s” opponents, even if the emphasis is on “Faker.” It’s true to say that any individual could spectate the highlighted games in the League of Legends client and broadcast those using their own client, or even focus on a friend or other player, you don’t currently need permission to do this.
By playing a game of League of Legends you acknowledge that your game can be viewed publicly using Riot’s spectate game feature and that you don’t have ownership over the game you are playing. Naturally, this is different if SpectateFaker was to rebroadcast your Twitch or Azubu stream, gameplay, commentary and all, that most certainly would be a breach of copyright.
February 22 – An idiot abroad
The first thing I would like to point out before we proceed is that /r/leagueoflegends are basically devotees to Riot Games and will sing their praises till the end of time, or so we thought.
Enter Riot Games’ Marc Merrill, known to the community as Tryndamere. Merrill responds to the growing controversy on Reddit in what can only be described as an uninformed and arrogant manner, to the shock and dismay of the collective community. His initial assertion of the situation is that SpectateFaker is stealing “Faker’s” own stream, rebroadcasting it on a rival service in order to profit from content which he did not create. At no point initially does Merrill acknowledge that SpectateFaker is using Riot’s own spectate system. Along with this failure to properly research the situation, the manner in which Tryndamere expresses himself is beyond arrogant, one can’t help but wonder why a PR team was not assigned to resolve this and leave the president out of the mess. Sure mistakes are made, we are all human, but people have or maybe I should say “had” massive respect for Marc Merrill and fans of the game, I doubt, will forget this.
It gets worse a lot worse
The whole story is beginning to read like an extract out of Esportsexpress, but it’s not and it only gets worse from here on out.
Following on from his initial assertion and statement on Reddit, Marc Merrill continues his misinformed rhetoric on twitter, yet now it contain hints of disparagement and even a lack of understanding of Riot’s own T&C. Merrill has at the time of writing ignored the outcry on Reddit trying to explain why he is not correct with his opinion on the matter. [This is a Tryndamere guys, when last were you able to reason with one?]
We have included a couple of prize tweets which Mr Merrill has tweeted, let us not even get into his cherry-picked retweets from equally uninformed individuals and his own employees!
To be clear - we're against e-stalking. If we need to change our rules over and over to close loop holes to protect our players, we will.— Marc Merrill (@MarcMerrill) February 22, 2015
Even if he as an individual isn't profiting (good), he's hurting the primary revenue source for a player whose full time job is League.— Marc Merrill (@MarcMerrill) February 21, 2015
If Riot deems this to be some form of stalking [which personally I think is complete bullshit, I mean let’s not let this guy stream Faker’s games, because that would be an invasion of privacy, meanwhile http://azubu.tv/Faker] then Riot have a major problem on their hands. You’ve built a spectate system which allows the public to watch any player. You’ve stated players don’t “own” their accounts, which means a player can’t dictate who may watch that account.
Is spectating “en masse” e-stalking if it was public to begin with?
If Riot wants to make it against the rules to stream a spectated game of another player, unless you have their permission, then can the spectate system exist? As will this rule be universally obeyed or will only famous streamers be able to use it? And how on earth would this work in a game where one player opts for it and another opts out of it? This whole “e-stalking” sideshow is a clever means to move attention away from the illegal misuse of a DMCA request. And effecting Faker’s income well StarLordLucian does make a good point:
“Azubu doesn’t get enough viewership to make real money on ad revenue alone. If LCS, Faker or their tournaments aren’t on their website is literally a ghost town with only a few hundred or few thousand viewers total… So it’s clear that Faker and the other Korean streamers probably get a salary irrespective of the amount of viewers they get.”
February 23 – The show goes on!
Mixed up in this shit storm is the actual issue which once again nobody is addressing properly, especially Riot Games. An organisation which has no legal foothold has abused the DMCA system to attempt to remove content which they don’t have ownership over. The measured and professional response could and should have been Azubu contacting Riot Games to find out the exact permissions regarding streaming a spectated game via one’s own client. But once again we have seen a blatant abuse of a DMCA and I seriously doubt this will change.
For now the SpectateFaker show goes on, StarLordLucian has decided that until a DMCA is sent from Riot Games he will continue to stream.