EPIC Bravely Defeats 14 Year Old's Mom In Court To Continue Lawsuit Against Her Son For Cheating In Fortnite

from the punching-down dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about EPIC, makers of the popular Fortnite game, picking up the baton from Blizzard to pretzel copyright law such that it believes it can sue those that cheat in its game for copyright infringement. This belief centers on the claim that these cheaters break the EULA, despite the fact that no actual copying occurs when breaking a EULA. To make PR matters worse for EPIC, the company managed to sweep up a fourteen year old in its lawsuit-blitz. Despite the teenager supposedly being quite brazen in his use of cheats, and in his communications to others about how to cheat in Fortnite, I had assumed that EPIC would find a way to quietly back away from this particular suit, given how shitty the optics would be. It did the opposite, pursuing the case and seeking a summary judgement after the teenager failed to respond. The court refused, however, citing a letter to the court from the teen's mother, who argued that the suit against her son was overkill and, critically, that the argument over the EULA was null because her minor son couldn't legally enter into such an agreement without her input.

Rather than again trying to salvage some PR positivity from any of this, EPIC then decided instead to take on the mother's letter as a legal matter, with its lawyers countering it as a legal argument. EPIC argued that caselaw is clear that such contracts aren't void, even if one party is a minor, so long as that minor enjoyed the benefits of the contract. Unfortunately, the judge in the case has decided that he will not dismiss and will allow this lawsuit to move forward.

“As detailed in plaintiff’s response memorandum, defendant has not shown that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face,”

“[T]herefore, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, and the motion to dismiss must be denied.”

Now, in fairness to the judge, the court is required to adjudicate motions to dismiss with an eye towards favoring the plaintiff. Frankly, it was somewhat of a commitment to fairness that the court even allowed the mother's letter to serve as a motion to dismiss in the first place. On the other hand, it's useful to frame this ruling as one that comes from a judge steeped in the law, favoring a large company with a legal team likewise steeped in legal knowledge, and against the mother of a fourteen year old who cheated in an online game. When seen in that light, this whole thing is plainly ridiculous.

And dangerous, too, particularly as part of a trend in gaming companies misusing copyright law in this way to go after cheaters in online games. Yes, those cheaters are annoying. Yes, this teenager appeared to be a fairly bad actor. And, yes, EPIC has gone out of its way to suggest it wouldn't be trying to bankrupt this family and mostly just wants the cheating to cease. All of that can be true while it also being true that abusing copyright law in this way is both bad and opening a litigious door that we should want to remain shut.

Filed Under: cheating, copyright, fortnite, parents, teenager
Companies: epic

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2018 @ 7:29am

    Re: Stupid kid has a lifetime ban

    I would argue that what he is doing is not *copyright infringement*. It could be breach of contract, but that's not the same thing. (If your rent is late, you may be in violation of your lease, but that doesn't mean you're trespassing.)

    It is likely that the TOS was not presented to him until after the download. In any case, when the copy was initially downloaded, he had not yet cheated with that copy and thus was not yet in violation of the TOS. You can't retroactively be infringing, just like you can't retroactively be trespassing. One could also argue that if he downloaded a copy of the software from the Epic servers, it is Epic who actually made the copy, not him. Even if he somehow tricked them into sending him a copy, they are still the ones who sent it.

    Also, according to 17 USC 101, "'Copies' are material objects, other than phonorecords, in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed..."

    If something is in computer memory, is it really "fixed"? It will disappear if the power goes out, and the variables change from moment to moment. I would argue that anything in computer memory (as opposed to a hard drive) is transitory.

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