Epic Sues 14 Year Old It Accuses Of Cheating In Videogames After He Counternotices a DMCA On His YouTube Video
from the what-a-time-to-be-alive dept
We called it. When Blizzard decided several years ago to try to twist copyright law into one hell of a pretzel in the name of going after video game cheaters, we said it was going to open the the door to other developers and publishers abusing the law in the same way. Blizzard’s theory is that using a cheat in its games, particularly in its multiplayer games, was a violation of the EULA and created a copyright violation when the cheater continued to play the game he or she only “licensed.” A deep dive into the actual substance of the copyright claims reveals them to be laughable, except Blizzard is rarely joined in court by its defendants, so no challenge to its pretzel-theory of copyright is ever put forward. Shortly after all of this, Riot Games joined in on this fun, deciding to apply the well-salted pretzel copyright logic to groups making cheats for League of Legends.
And, since it’s not a real party until you have a third, now Epic Games is getting in on the action. And Epic went big for its first go around, deciding to actually sue a fourteen year old child who didn’t make a cheat for Epic’s Fortnite, but simply used a cheat. The fourteen year old was swept up in lawsuits filed against several cheaters for copyright infringement and, by all accounts, this fourteen year old was something of a pain in the ass for Epic.
One of the accused is a young man, who was banned at least 14 times since he started playing. Every time Epic took action, he simply created new accounts under false names and continued to play and cheat at Fortnite. What Epic Games probably didn’t know is that the cheater in question is a minor. The company likely obtained his name via YouTube or elsewhere, without knowing his real age.
This is the danger of suing end users using illicit cheats rather than going after the groups and sites that make those cheats available: kids play games. Kids also, apparently, agree to the very EULA that Epic is asserting triggers copyright infringement through the use of the cheat. Kids also occasionally have awesome moms, who angrily inform the court of all the reasons that this copyright suit is bullshit. The whole letter from the fourteen year old’s mother is worth a read, but here are the most relevant portions.
Please note parental consent was not issued to [my son] to play this free game produced by Epic Games, INC,” the mother writes in her letter.
Epic claims that cheaters cause the company to lose money, but the mother doesn’t buy this since it’s a free game. Instead, she believes that the company is trying to blame her son for its failure to curb cheaters.
“It is my belief that due to their lack of ability to curve cheat codes and others from modifying their game, they are using a 14-year-old child as a scape goat to make an example of him.”
On top of all of this, a lawsuit against a fourteen year old simply for using a cheat for a video game is a public relations nightmare. On the other hand, Epic is in a horrible position. It would look odd to simply drop the suit against the fourteen year old because he’s fourteen and still pursue the suits against the non-minor parties. Either what was done was either copyright infringement or it wasn’t (it wasn’t, but that’s besides the point). The whole thing just looks… petty.
Meanwhile, as pointed out first by Torrentfreak, Epic has responded to the Mom’s letter, which you can read here. The key argument that Epic makes is that it did not violate the law against naming a minor because it didn’t know the kid was only 14 — but then says that the mother’s letter waived the teen’s privacy anyway — and thus asks the court for guidance on whether to ask the court to seal the information (which is already widely distributed) or not.
We did not violate Rule 5.2(a) or Local Civil Rule 17.2 because we did not know when we filed the papers that Defendant was a minor. Although there is an argument that by submitting the Letter to the Court containing Defendant’s name and address, Defendant’s mother waived this protection…. we plan to include only Defendant’s initials or redact his name entirely in all future filings with the Court, including this letter.
This letter is to request the Court’s guidance on whether the Court would like us to file a motion to seal the papers currently on the docekt that include Defendant’s full name, re-file versions of those papers with Defendant’s name redacted, or take any other remedial action.
Of course, another option would be not to abuse copyright law this way. Then Epic wouldn’t have this problem.