Better late than never: the latest blogpost on the official Counter-Strike website goes into detail about the developers’ stance on the important matters of tournament exclusivity, media rights and matters relating to conflicts of interest. No real policy shift was announced as part of this proclamation, making it all the more odd why it took Valve until after the latest CS:GO major to address the related streaming controversies.
Both RFRSH’s BLAST project and ESL’s rumoured Pro Tour competition made a play for forcing participants to forgo other events in the circuit, and it’s clear that Valve threw cold water on the matter, specifically underlining the statement that “At this time we are not interested in providing licenses for events that restrict participating teams from attending other events.” For readers with a keen eye, the first three words of this immediately jump off the page, making it clear that this matter is far from settled for the future. However, current third-party monopolization attempts will be effectively put on hold by this, as it’s quite clear that Valve would rescind the license required to operate a CS:GO tournament for any endeavor working along these lines.
"In order to participate in Majors, we require that players, teams, and tournament operators confirm that they have no existing conflicts of interest, or if they do, disclose them and work to resolve them. This requirement isn’t new, but we felt it was worth reiterating given the conversations we’re hearing”, Valve stated, going into detail about the disclosures and agreements required further down the line in the post. Most notably, they’ve opted to highlight the requirements specifically lodged at TOs looking to host a major, which is no doubt in part a response to RFRSH’s handling of the Astralis split and their rumored plans of trying to host a major later down the line.
“Licensee and Tournament event staff may not have any business entanglement (including, but not limited to, shared management, shared ownership of entities, licensing, and loans) with any participating team or players. If Licensee has any business entanglement with any player or teams then Licensee will disclose them in writing (including a description of the nature of the conflict) to Valve as of the Effective Date and at any point thereafter during the Term when such entanglement may arise. Within its sole discretion, Valve reserves the right to a) require that Licensee address and remove the business entanglement or b) terminate the Agreement without cost or penalty.”
"Throughout the year, tournament operators use their events to build relationships with sponsors and media partners. When it’s time for the Majors, we think it’s important that they don’t disrupt those existing relationships. For this reason, the Major tournament operator has always been the only party that has had a license to broadcast the Major.
However, we do expect our Major partners to be as inclusive as possible. Major tournament operators are expected to work with streamers in order to provide viewers with access to valuable alternative content and underserved languages, whether through official streams or otherwise. Anyone that wants to offer a unique perspective and co-stream the Major should reach out to the Major tournament operator ahead of time in order to ensure a good experience for everyone involved."
This clarification remains somewhat disappointing and fails to clear up the reasons behind Valve’s silence during the Berlin major. It seems their stance going forward is to try and get everyone to play nice, but the situation of content creators remains in limbo and seems to be in the hands of the individual tournament organizers at the time of the different majors. Similar sentiments were echoed by major figures affected by the StarLadder DMCA controversy.
Notably, the company took a much stronger stance in the case of Dota back in 2017, stating the following in a blog post:
“To that end, in addition to the official, fully-produced streams from the tournament organizer itself, we believe that anyone should be able to broadcast a match from DotaTV for their audience. However, we don’t think they should do so in a commercial manner or in a way that directly competes with the tournament organizer’s stream. This means no advertising/branding overlays, and no sponsorships. It also means not using any of the official broadcast’s content such as caster audio, camerawork, overlays, interstitial content, and so on. Finally, this is not permission for studios to broadcast each other’s events. In general, everyone should play nice together, and we think the boundaries should be pretty clear.”
It remains to be seen how the same situation will shake out in CS:GO.