In early 2016, Facebook expanded its live video function to all its users that immediately popularized the use of “livestream” videos. This used to be a specialized term that only few were familiar with, such as those engaged in the gaming and eSports industry. However, livestream is hardly a new creation from the past two years, as it has been around since 2011 with the birth of the livestreaming video platform, “Twitch”. As one of the world’s most popular live platform, the site primarily focuses on video gaming that allows gamers to include playthroughs of video games to interact with their audiences. The market has since responded to the growth of live audiences by releasing a range of software and websites that cater to livestreaming functions. Unfortunately, the “immediacy” and “interactivity” of livestream videos have also led to various harmful and undesirable social conducts and atmosphere. These include broadcasts of sexual acts; indecent parts; drugs; racing; and even acts of attempted suicide posted for the sole purpose of gaining more viewers and receiving “gifts”.
The “instantaneity” of livestreams has allowed regular Taiwanese people to transform themselves into quasi-television owners with the use of live platforms. Individuals can now utilize broadcast platforms at any time to spread content they want the public viewers to receive without subjecting themselves to the same laws and regulations that television carriers and the likes must abide to. The Radio and Television Law of Taiwan stipulates that "broadcasting and television services shall be licensed by the competent authorities and issued with a license for broadcasting and television licenses," and that the "broadcasting or television license shall be valid for nine years". Furthermore, the “suspension of broadcasting and television; transfer of equity interest; and change in name of responsible person shall be approved by the competent authorities”. Therefore, a television station must obtain a license from the government for a limited period of time, and the government must be aware of the true identity of the owner or the person in charge.
The law also stipulates that "the content of radio and television programs shall not include any of the following circumstances: (1) the violation of law or prohibition by law; (2) obstructing the mental and physical health of children or juveniles; and (3) obstructing the public order or good morals”. Consequently, “the television and broadcasting carriers that violate the provisions of this Law shall be punished by the competent authorities depending on the seriousness of the offence: First – a warning; Second – a fine; Third – suspension; and Fourth – revocation of license.” The government can also revoke licenses or adopt other means to prevent carriers from broadcasting content that violate public order and good morals.
However, the current regulations in Taiwan do not require livestream owners to apply for licenses under real names. Instead, the government holds a passive attitude towards the control of the broadcasting industry by adopting the concept of "industry self-regulation". This has resulted in the problem of “non-regulated” livestream channels at the mercy of each and every individual.
In contrast, the Chinese government has recognized livestream’s public media characteristic and takes a more proactive approach towards regulating the livestream industry. On July 1 of this year, the PRC Ministry of Culture promulgated the “Circular on Strengthening the Management of Internet Performances”, which not only seeks to fully implement the concept of “two random and one open” in the internet performance market by carrying out regular random checks, but it further announced that “performers bear direct responsibility for their internet performances” to clarify the responsibility of individuals engaging in livestreaming. Then, on July 12, the PRC Ministry of Culture announced 16,881 violations by livestream performers as a result of their investigations. In September, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the PRC announced the “Notice on the Issues Related to the Strengthening of the Administration of Online Audio and Visual Live Broadcasting Services”, which emphasized that live broadcasts shall possess “licenses” while individuals and organizations without one shall not engage in livestreaming. In other words, a number of “internet celebrities” must now also obtain the relevant live license in order to continue livestreaming.
“The reliance on illegal content for profit is not a long-term solution”, and it is evident that Chinese livestream platform broadcasters have begun to explore other modes of healthy competition against the strengthened governmental supervision and regulations. As the livestream industry is also an emerging industry in Taiwan, it remains to be seen how the Taiwanese government will supervise the industry in the future, or to continue down the path of industry self-discipline. Liu & Partners Attorneys-at-Law will cover the most relevant updates related to this field to help our readers gain vital information in the most efficient way.
Livestreaming is an important part of the eSports ecosystem. Liu & Partners has worked closely with key figures in Taiwan’s gaming and eSports industry, and we have also continued cooperation and maintained good relationships along the way. We are able to fully grasp the latest trends in the development of Taiwan’s eSports industry, and our partner, Victoria Liu, has been invited by the industry to hold a vital role in the eSports association. Based on our in-depth knowledge of the eSports industry and our experiences with assisting new and emerging industries, our eSports clients now include the most well-known and representative gaming companies in Taiwan. We are able to give our enterprise clients the most comprehensive consultation on the necessary legal protections. Please contact us if you would like to find out more about eSports, or any related inquiries for our services.
Liu & Partners Attorneys-at-Law 華通國際法律事務所
Victoria Liu (Partner) 劉懿嫻 合夥律師
Room C, 6F, No. 261, Sec. 3, Nanjing E. Rd., Songshan Dist., Taipei 10550, Taiwan
Tel: +886 (2) 2717 7878