Joaquín Muñoz, Head of IT&IP at ONTIER, attended the European Parliament to share his insight on the development of the e-sports industry and assessed whether or not regulations are required.
The e-sports industry had a revenue of over 1.163 billion euros in Spain last year, which means an increase of 7.4% in comparison with the revenue of 2015, according to GFK and Gametrack. Muñoz believes that this data proves that the industry is not mature enough yet, even though it's growing.
That's why Joaquín Muñoz believes that it's still early to regulate the industry: 'The best option would probably be waiting for a few years until the industry has developed. Currently self-regulation codes are making it possible to solve the problems they're concerned about. Regulations must be implemented carefully so that the industry can keep on growing.'
The lack of a regulatory framework doesn't imply that e-sports are illegal, it just means that only a few modifications are required for now. It would be enough with every country applying a few modifications in their existing regulations and with enabling self-regulation of the sector through private contracts and codes of good practice for the different players in the industry. According to Joaquín Muñoz, overregulating could limit the industry's development.
France is the only European country that has in some way regulated the e-sports industry, more specifically the legal status of professional esports players (in the other countries this professional relationship has been framed within each legal system) and the organisation of these events. Joaquín states that it would be convenient to regulate this practice 'in situations where there is a clear public interest or where one of the parties is in a disadvantaged position with respect to the other parties and therefore needs to be protected.'
In the event that it is necessary to regulate the sector, Muñoz suggests three possible ways. Firstly, he suggests a hybrid between a self-regulation of the sector and an adaptation to the national legislation. Another option might be for the legislator to choose to regulate all aspects of the economic activity, or only those that need to be regulated in order to ensure equality. The third option would be considering e-sports as a sports discipline and apply the specific regulation in this field.
Joaquín believes that this third option is getting increasingly pointless because of two reasons. The main reason for this are intellectual property rights. Videogames are commercial products owned by the Publisher. When the videogame acquires a certain relevance, some publishers choose to organise a competition with their videogame and establish the conditions for said competition. They are, in other words, 'the owners of the ball', which makes e-sports totally different from traditional sports. On the other hand, there is no common grounds between these games, and therefore, there cannot be a 'discipline' called esports.
Joaquín Muñoz stated that he did not have the ultimate answer to how the e-sports industry should be regulated, but he recommended that public authorities should stay vigilant in case they are needed to take action.