Riot has been forced to clarify its stance on third parties re-streaming gameplay of League of Legends players against their consent.
This seemingly begnign issue blossomed into controversy thanks to a stream of Korean pro player Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, whose gameplay was being automatically rebroadcast on Twitch by a third party -- despite his exclusive contract with eSports network Azubu.
This was possible by tapping into Faker's games using the standard streaming API for League of Legends. Azubu and Faker moved to have the stream shut down.
The result? "We will intervene and shut down streams where we perceive that it’s causing harm to individual players," Riot president and co-founder Marc Merrill writes in a new blog post. But it's going to be case-by-case, he says.
In this case, the restream hurt not only Faker but "the potential of pros to gain equally lucrative streaming partnerships in the future," Merrill writes. "Streaming contracts like this are an important cornerstone in creating a stable financial esports ecosystem in Korea."
However, Merrill did write this: "Spectator mode is an evolving tool that should not only enable players to watch gameplay live, but also be sensitive to the concerns of players who feel targeted or harmed by others who systematically stream each of their games without their consent."
Merrill also writes that Azubu's attempt to get the Twitch-based re-stream shut down with a DMCA takedown notice wasn't valid, as the company "did not have a legal standing as we, not Azubu, own the gameplay content." In other words, remember: You're playing on Riot's field.
Down the road, he writes, the company may offer finer-grained controls over its streaming API, but that'll take some time.
The full blog post goes much deeper into the nuts and bolts of the issue and is interesting reading in light of the rising relevance of both eSports and game streaming.