League of Legends e-sports controversy sparked over Twitch stream

Spectate Faker

'Spectate Faker' is a Twitch stream that uses OP.GG to broadcast the matches of League of Legends pro player Lee "Faker" Sang-Hyeok. It's a simple enough concept, and yet the stream has sparked controversy—with Riot's president, Marc Merrill, saying it "reeks of harassment and bullying.".

The source of the problem is an exclusivity deal between Faker and streaming service Azubu—one of a number of exclusive deals the site has with Korean e-sports pros.

Azubu went so far as to send a DMCA notice to the Twitch stream's owner, "StarLordLucian". New problem: Azubu doesn't own the content being streamed by Spectate Faker. While they have exclusive rights to broadcast Faker's streams, Spectate Faker isn't a direct re-stream of that perspective—rather, it's the view from a sanctioned third-party client. That footage is owned by Riot.

Here's where things get a bit complicated. Riot's own terms of service claim the following:

"We’ll start with our golden rule – you can use League of Legends IP as the basis for a fan project that you’re giving away for free or that’s only generating ad revenue ... as long as you comply with the guidelines outlined below for using our IP. As a matter of fact, as long as you comply with our Guidelines, we think it’s great if you create awesome, free and original content for League of Legends fans."

"StarLordLucian" claims that his stream follows those guidelines. He describes Azubu's DMCA takedown request as "illegal," and claims the only ones with the the ability to end the stream are Riot themselves. To verify this, the Daily Dot spoke to an actual real life lawyer, Bryce Blum, who largely agreed with SLL's statement. Blum's conclusion: "That content isn’t Faker’s to license—it’s Riot’s."

So far, Riot hasn't issued a takedown request. But let's go back to Marc Merrill's statement. The Riot head took to Reddit to explain his thoughts on the issue:

"If you can't see how this potentially harms Faker and/or anyone else in this situation, then that is more reinforcement that we need to take the appropriate action to protect players from this type of unique situation.

"As to the comments about our API, of course we want 3rd party devs to do cool things with spectator. But when people utilize one of its components to harm / harass an individual, then we need to potentially re-evaluate our rules."

As for "StarLordLucien's" position, he has posted on Reddit numerous times, most recently with the following:

"I know some people will disagree with this and bring up ethics, but I think this whole issue is about a lot more than Faker. It's about Riot not enforcing their own legal terms of service. It's about a co-owner of Riot Games being completely out of touch with esports and the spectator mode. It's about a company (Azubu) issuing a false DMCA claim for content they didn't even own. These are issues that will affect the future of the game and the spectator mode. All of this needs to be debated for the future of League of Legends and esports.

"Right know nothing my stream does is illegal or against the League of Legends terms of service. Riot can always change their terms. And Riot can DMCA my stream at anytime, as they have the power to put any League related IP or Project to an end.

"If Riot does DMCA my stream that will be the end of it, I won't counter them or try to make a new stream. But I won't be listening to anyone else from Riot or on Reddit lecture to me about morals anymore. To those people I say, I'm doing this stream because I can legally and it's allowed by League of Legends' legal terms."

Finally, and most recently, Faker's team, SK Telecom T1, have released their own statement through their Facebook page:

"First of all, SKT and other pro eSports teams have started streaming business last year to help ensure stable environment for players to play professionally. Not only has the streaming deal expressly helped with players' with their professional activities, it also has been a good medium through which a pro gamer's value is recognized.

"Unfortunately, some of the fans have been re-broadcasting Faker's (and other SKT T1 players') games through the spectator mode, and this has negatively affected players' streaming business. Faker, a member of the SKT T1, also expressed discomfort over the current situation where his summoner name and videos of his games are being broadcasted with no consent.

"SKT T1 team and its players truly appreciate the fans' fantastic support and interest. However, we would like to politely request the re-broadcasting of our players' games without our consent to be stopped."

Thanks, PCGamesN.

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.