Epic Decides To Double Down On Copyright For Cheating Lawsuit Against 14 Year Old By Taking On Mom
from the great-PR-you-have-there dept
When Blizzard decided to pretzel copyright law such that cheating in its online games constituted copyright infringement in a novel way that makes no sense, we warned that other game studios would join this insanity party and create a true judicial problem for the courts. Unfortunately for the world, we were right about that, and several other studios began claiming that such cheats broke EULAs and that this somehow resulted in copyright infringement, despite no actual copying occurring. Among those other studios was Epic, makers of the popular Fortnite game, but unique in that it managed to sweep up a 14 year old using a cheat in its lawsuits. The prospect of suing high school freshmen was likely not what EPIC had in mind with its lawsuits and, after the teen’s mother responded to the court chastising the company for the lawsuit and also arguing that her son could not have agreed to the EULA as a minor, we noted what a massive PR nightmare this had become for Epic.
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.
My assumption was honestly that Epic would run away from this lawsuit, given how horrible it would look taking on a teenager and his mom. Somewhat astonishingly, Epic did the exact opposite, served the teenager with a new version of its suit that redacted his name to his initials, and showed up in court. Neither the teen or his mother joined them and Epic asked for a default judgment. The court, however, refused to do so and instead decided to take the teen’s mother’s letter to the court as a request to have the case dismissed.
However, US District Court Malcolm Howard wouldn’t allow Epic to cruise to a win that easily. Instead, he ruled that the mother’s letter should be seen as a motion to dismiss the case.
“While it is true that defendant has not responded since proper service was effectuated, the letter from defendant’s mother detailing why this matter should be dismissed cannot be ignored,” Judge Howard wrote earlier this month.
Because of that, Epic again was faced with a choice. It could stop this insanity of suing a teenager for copyright infringement when no such infringement was committed, or it could respond in court to the angry, anguished plea of a teenager’s mother. It chose again, unbelievably, to play the villain in this drama, and tripled down on its lawsuit. Its response mostly argues that the mom failed to make a legal claim in her letter, which, duh. It then goes on to claim that the teenager can’t claim his status as a minor prevents him from signing the EULA because of all the benefits he got from signing it.
“This ‘infancy defense’ is not available to C.R,” Epic writes, pointing to jurisprudence where another court ruled that a minor can’t use the infancy defense to void contractual obligations while keeping the benefits of the same contract.
“C.R. affirmatively agreed to abide by Epic’s Terms and EULA, and ‘retained the benefits’ of the contracts he entered into with Epic. Accordingly, C.R. should not be able to ‘use the infancy defense to void [his] contractual obligations by retaining the benefits of the contract[s]’.”
I cannot stress enough how crazy this is on multiple fronts. The breaking of a EULA in this way is not copyright infringement. The claim in Epic’s response is that the court should consider a teenager capable of entering a binding EULA, one which Epic theorizes cements copyright requirements, just because he played the game for which the EULA is written. And, ever present is the simple fact that Epic is going to all of these lengths to sue a fourteen year old that used a cheat in a video game. That’s nearly insane enough to read like fiction, except that all of this has been done in a public court.
How any of this could possibly be worth the PR hit Epic is taking is beyond me.