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Amazon sues bot-making companies for unfair trade practices

Amazon operates the largest online marketplace in the United States. You have probably heard of owner Jeff Bezos' various commercial adventures, including most famously, Blue Origins, the rocket company. But what you may not know is that Amazon is looking to compete in the online streaming industry. In pursuit of that goal, Amazon purchased Twitch, one of the largest streaming sites.

Streaming connects viewers from around the world to a particular player with the goal of watching them play the game. It has become hugely popular, it is estimated that Twitch gets over 100 million views a month. It can also be very beneficial for players. If they reach a certain viewer threshold, they can share in the advertising revenue and perhaps even get endorsements.

As you probably guessed, this entire model revolves around Twitch accurately measuring the number of viewers a player has. This has created incentive for some companies to create "bots" to boost player numbers. Bots are programs that trick the Twitch server into believing that it is a human viewer. Entire companies are built around this model and players pay a monthly subscription.

In response Amazon, via its subsidiary Twitch, filed lawsuits against several companies that generate these "bots". Twitch threw the book at all of these companies alleging everything from unfair competition, cybersquatting, fraud, breach of contract, tortious interference and federal trademark infringement. Twitch alleges that these bot makers trick the company into signing broadcasting contracts with players that are not actually popular. Twitch further alleges that this also hurts other players (with broadcasting agreements) by making it harder for viewers to discover them.

As you can see, unfair business competition can take many forms. If you believe that another company is unfairly utilizing your website or co-opting your services then you may want to speak to an attorney. These are relatively novel forms of litigation and therefore it would be best to have an attorney in your corner. You want to have all of your plans set before you file that first complaint. An attorney can help you get there.

Source: PC Gamer, "Twitch sues bot makers," Andy Chalk, June 17, 2016

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