The Legal Ramifications of Virtual Events | Sports Destination Management

The Legal Ramifications of Virtual Events

Oct 23, 2020 | By: Ben Gonzalez

Improvement in technology has seen a tremendous demand for virtual events. In the wake of COVID-19, the sports industry is facing the challenge of shifting their focus from main live events. The current situation is so profound that competitions are taking place in real-time through screens or simulators. For example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has implemented Virtual Reality to help viewers experience tournaments. On the other hand, the Chinese Professional Baseball League has replaced fans with robots and mannequins. Pro racing is another exciting sport where organizers are simulating and broadcasting live competitions.

You will find most people focus their attention on the legal intricacies of setting up physical meetings. Participants and organizers will sign terms of applications, codes of conduct and put in place clear copyright guidelines. While this is the case for physical meetings, most people think virtual meetings have fewer guidelines.  The thinking behind this, is, however, untrue. Virtual events have as many legal intricacies as face to face meetings. And in some cases, even more, legalities when planning these events.

Therefore, event organizers need to consider proper planning and address these laws to prevent legal damage.  Here is what virtual event planners should do before holding their next virtual summit.

Tips for Planning a Virtual Event

Plan in Advance

Most of the virtual events, this year,  were organized in panic. Hence they did not perform well despite businesses hosting them to avoid loss of revenue. A virtual event demands at least three months of planning. The pandemic caused most planners to have their events planned by people who had little to no knowledge of running a virtual event. Note that a virtual event requires complex marketing compared to a physical summit. During the three months, ensure you have in place a website, social media presence, promotional content, sponsors, registrants, speakers, sponsors and most importantly, a theme. To avoid intellectual damage consider addressing all corresponding copyright issues. 


Set clear guidelines on how your sponsors are going to benefit from the virtual event. Will you afford them a certain amount of exposure or will their names/logos/brands be mentioned during the live event? Will those in attendance be able to download the sponsor's materials such as whitepapers, contact information or will you give them a chance to say something?

Avoid guaranteeing sponsors any form of benefits from the event. Especially when you have no prior metrics of an online event. Write down an agreement and a code of contract between your virtual event and the sponsor. Anything could easily happen and have event organizers paying for legal liabilities.


Speakers need to sign with event planners how their material will be used. The planners should remain clear about their purpose, how they will broadcast or rebroadcast the event and how they intend to repurpose the event's content.  Once they are clear with these guidelines, they ought to communicate everything to the speakers. Some presenters will have the copyright on their materials and you do not want your company to face copyright infringements. Virtual event's liabilities are perpetual especially when a presenter comes back claiming the event distributed copyrighted material without permission.

Those in Attendance

Like a physical meeting, those in attendance have to sign off terms and applications. The terms and conditions should include the attendee's code of conduct. Remain clear on behaviour and the consequences of unlawful harassment, cyberbullying and derogatory comments.

Also, make clear how the materials and resources of the virtual event will be used. Agree with the attendees whether their image, voices or comments will be captured and let them sign in case you repurpose the broadcast. Usage of the material should be clear, and those in attendance should understand all guidelines.

Defamation, Infringement and Copyrights

Event planners face the risk of indemnification in case of copyright infringement. The organization could be sued for anything as little as derogatory comments on part of attendees or an attendee distributing copyrighted materials. Provisions of indemnifications should be set to ensure involved parties do not get sued on behalf of the event organizers. Such Parties include sponsors, exhibitors and attendees.

The event organizer faces huge liability in case of defamation and may spend thousands of dollars in a lawsuit or when settling an indemnification process.

General Liability Insurance Cover

Event organizers and sponsors take different insurance covers to protect themselves from risk. A comprehensive general liability insurance coverage will protect the event's organization from defamation and copyright infringement. Risks facing virtual events are different from those facing physical meetings. However, all events might require a general liability insurance policy to shield the organization from transmission failures, cancellations, copyright infringement, damage caused to third parties and protect those in attendance. A comprehensive liability insurance cover will also protect those in attendance from potential risks and third party injury.

The legal intricacies facing virtual events could differ from physical events. However, proper planning comes to top the list for both. With the right planning and experience, an organization will be able to address all the legal issues effectively. You will findlaw firms that provide consultation to event organizers and would come in handy when navigating the ins and out of an online event.

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