21-year-old Turner Tenney, also known by his professional gamer tag as Tfue, sued FaZe Clan on Monday for allegedly restraining business opportunities and taking up to 80 percent of his earnings.
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), The lawsuit states FaZe Clan limiting his ability to pursue his profession is in violation of California law. A complaint argues esports players’ representatives should be regulated like agents of film and television stars.
“In no uncertain terms, these gamers are artists, entertainers and content creators — they perform, they act, they direct, they edit and they stream,” writes attorney Bryan Freedman of Freedman + Taitelman in the complaint. Unlike traditional entertainment, esports is a new industry, and Freedman argues there is “little to no regulation or oversight,” and no unions or guilds to protect the players who are often young and trusting.
There is a lot of money up for grabs in the esports industry. Tyler Blevins, known professionally as Ninja, told CNN in December he made $10 million in 2018 playing Fortnite. Ninja has more than 20 million subscribers on YouTube and has more than 450 million views on Twitch. He is sponsored by Samsung, Uber Eats and Red Bull.
Tenney claims he is missing out on similar opportunities due to FaZe Clan’s unlawful activity in connection with a deal signed in April 2018. Tenney only gets to keep 20 percent of revenue from any branded videos published on Twitch, YouTube of social media. Half of his revenue comes from touring and appearances. His Twitch streams have been viewed more than 120 million times and he has 10 million subscribers on YouTube and 5.5 million Instagram followers.
“That Gamer Agreement is grossly oppressive, onerous, and one-sided,” writes Freedman. “Faze Clan uses its illegal Gamer Contracts to limit Tenney to deals sourced exclusively by Faze Clan and to prevent Tenney from exploring deals presented by others; deals that are potentially superior to deals procured by Faze Clan; and deals that are not saddled with an eighty percent (80%) finder’s fee.”
Tenney attempted to terminate the agreement in September claiming FaZe Clan breached their deal. According to the complaint, the group rejected Tenney’s termination and contends he’s still bound by their contract. Tenney is asking the court for a declaration that the gamer agreement is terminated, and is seeking fair payment for his services and disgorgement of FaZe Clan’s profits as well as punitive damages.
FaZe Clan has since responded to the complaint on Twitter. They stated they have only collected $60 thousand dollars from the partnership with Tenney and will continue to support him.
FaZe Clan’s response to today’s press article regarding Tfue: pic.twitter.com/eVdRVMnRpl
— FaZe Clan (@FaZeClan) May 20, 2019
Freedman argues Tenney’s contract is not just anti-competitive, but FaZe has also been in conflict with the Talent Agency Act through the practice of procuring engagements and employment for gamers. State law in California requires any person or company “who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment or engagements for an artist” must be licensed by the labor commissioner and conform to professional regulations.
Freedman took Tfue’s TAA violation to the California Labor Commissioner on March 15. Tenney claims FaZe Clan’s contract may be the least of the problems.
“Not only does Faze Clan take advantage of these young artists, it jeopardizes their health, safety and welfare,” writes Freedman in the petition to determine controversy. Tenney says FaZe Clan pressured him to live in one of its homes in the Hollywood Hills with other young YouTubers, where he says he was given alcohol before turning 21 and encouraged to illegally gamble.
“Faze Clan also continuously pressured and encouraged Tenney and others to undertake dangerous stunts while performing in videos,” writes Freedman. “During one video, Tenney suffered an injury to his arm while skateboarding which resulted in permanent disfigurement.”
Tenney’s petition also claims FaZe Clan signed an 11-year-old gamer and pressured the minor and his family lie about his age. Tenney is asking for a determination that FaZe Clan violated the TAA, that his gamer agreement is not enforceable and that the company must repay him all revenue it has collected as a result of its work for him.
“Tfue and my law firm are sending a message,” Freedman said in a statement to THR. “The time is now for content creators, gamers and streamers to stop being taken advantage of through oppressive, unfair and illegal agreements. The significant legal actions taken today will be a wake up call that this behavior will no longer be tolerated. The gaming community deserves a safe environment that allows gamers the freedom to control their own careers.”
You can read the full complaint below.