LOS ANGELES – A pending court case could go some way to clearing the legal air around the still-murky position of e-sports players, gamers, and influencers, industry watchers are predicting.
One highly popular gamer and e-sports player, who operates on the Twitch streaming platform and competes in tournaments, is suing the company that manages a collection of influencers and e-sports players.
Turner Tenney, 21, who is better known by his online handle Tfue, accuses FaZe Clan, the collective, of exploitation by taking huge chunks of his earnings and claims the company violated California's Talent Agencies Act by illegally operating as the gamer's management representative.
Tenney competes in competitions but also plays video games, including the hugely popular Fortnite, overlaying the production with commentary. These productions, by Tfue and a growing number of others, attract tens of millions of mostly young viewers.
But the position of these gamers and competitive e-sports players is not clear to the point where it is not known whether they might be covered under entertainment or sports laws.
"I think the first thing that you see that there is a difference between entertainment and sports deal making," said Jeremy Evans, who heads the Los Angeles-based law firm California Sports Lawyer. "E-sports is having difficulty finding how that works."
Evans said he expects the issue to be thrashed out in the courts at state level with the Tenney case. He said the lawsuit's allegations about unfair business practices and violations of the Talent Agencies Act may potentially act as a catalyst for the industry to act.
"What I find with a lot of these things, a landmark case usually drives the interested parties to make changes," Evans said, adding that the e-sports organizations may be driven to deliver a unified position.
This may include a code of conduct on how to treat e-sports players, gamers, influencers and provisions to protect minors and young adults - the bulk of gamers - from abusive contracts
"There really is not anything existing...deals (are) being done by all sorts of people," Evans said, "It is the Wild West," he said.
Los Angeles Superior Court, which is hearing the Tenney action, may provide some direction.
According to an article in The Atlantic, Tenney claims FaZe Clan should be regulated the same as agents of film and television personalities. Tenney alleges he was barred from chasing other business opportunities and that the collective withheld earnings, with the claim that FaZe Clan took as much as 80 percent.
FaZe Clan, founded by FaZe Banks, issued a statement on Twitter in response to the filing of the lawsuit and the Atlantic article.
"We’re shocked and disappointed to see the news of Tfue’s press article and lawsuit … We have only collected a total $60,000 from our partnership, while Tfue has earned millions as a member of FaZe Clan," the statement read.
The company claimed to take a maximum of 20 percent of any tournament and content revenue.