With the onset of social distancing measures due to COVID19, many of us have begun using online video chat and streaming services as ways to continue to spend time with family, friends, and coworkers. Legal matters may not be the first thing on your mind while you’re spending time on Zoom, Hangouts, or Discord or while you’re streaming on Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, or Facebook. But remember that even while you’re stuck at home, you should still be aware of how your use of these services may interact with contract, privacy, copyright, trademark, and more. As you endeavor to stay safe from the pandemic, make sure that you’re staying safe with respect to these legal issues as well!

CONTRACT LAW

Many contracts place limitations on which communication methods can be validly used for notice and communication. Although email and registered mail are commonly allowed, online voice or video chat may be insufficient for proper legal notice.

In addition, if you’re using voice or video chat to make new deals, be aware. Some types of contracts cannot be agreed to merely by voice or video chat, requiring explicit written agreements. And while other agreements may not necessitate this as a matter of law, proving the existence of an agreement is always easier when written proof exists.

How do your contracts handle notice and communication methods? Are you making sure to memorialize your agremeents with signed written contracts drafted by an expert attorney?

PRIVACY LAW

Recent years have seen significant changes in legal regimes covering privacy online, including the major changes of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), implemented in 2018, and more recently with California’s new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which just came into effect earlier this year. As even more of our commerce and activity moves online in reaction to so many of us staying at home, understanding the rules, regulations, and penalties of privacy laws has become even more important.

There are significant privacy concerns with some of the most popular video chat and streaming services as well. More privacy-sensitive work, such as my own discussions with my clients, may require more knowledge about which services are safe to use.

And lastly, since chat and streaming services typically store archives, there may be privacy and consent implications with respect to people whose conversations or physical presence may appear accidentally on your calls or streams. Different states handle consent in this kind of case differently, but many demand that all parties on a recording explicitly agree before being recorded.

Are you aware of the privacy and data issues that may arise while working or playing from home?

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW

Who owns the content of your video chats? This can be very important especially for more creative conversations and presentations, but can matter for any business. It may be that the chat service itself can make some uses of your calls. Apart from that, if any party to your calls can make uses of the calls’ content, you may find that your new plans can end up going public sooner than you think, that your unreleased character design may pop up in a different property altogether, or that your unfinished story dialogue suddenly receives a substantially similar competitor that comes to market first. Clarifying who owns the content of your calls can make the difference between success and failure for your next project.

Are you using those fun custom backgrounds in your calls? If so, are you making sure to only use content that you outright own or have already licensed? If not, you may be infringing the rights of others.

As for online streaming, the copyright and trademark implications of streaming other rights holders’ games, music, and audiovisual works online, or even of streaming your own content online, can be profound. Enforcing your own rights can often be a chore as well.

How have you been handling the intellectual property issues that extend from working and playing online?

ESPORTS

The COVID19 pandemic has forced sports leagues to shutter. For the foreseeable future, esports are the only sports, being featured on major sports networks in addition to their normal homes on Twitch, YouTube, and other streaming sites. As a result, if you’re working in esports or considering starting a business in it, now is your time.

Few attorneys in the world have the kind of expertise I have in esports. Over the last decade, I have represented individuals and businesses across nearly every niche across many different esports, from players to teams, event organizers to game rights holders, advertisers to broadcasters, and more. I also have my own side career as a world renowned fighting game esports commentator. Through that work, I often find and meet up with clients as well as with industry leaders, community representatives, and more whose relationships have often proved crucial in aiding my clients.

Are you interested in getting involved in esports while the only competing we can do is from home?

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

I have been deeply enmeshed in exactly these sorts of legal questions since 2011, having represented many online content creators, streamers, esports enterprises, and businesses whose primary modes of production and sales are centered online. I am also not new to using these services in my own work. Many of my clients prefer to work exclusively online with me; in fact, I have never met a significant number of my clients in person. I also have a decade of experience streaming and creating content online myself. In short, my career has in some ways been a dry run for how to survive in this era of COVID19.

If you could use an attorney with an excellent understanding of both the law and the practicalities of working via video and voice chat and of streaming online, please contact me today.

This article is released under a Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY License, meaning it can be shared, redistributed, or modified by anyone for any reason as long as any such use includes attribution to David Philip Graham of DPG at Law as well as links to the original article here and to dpgatlaw.com.