How old do you have to be before starting to worry about lawsuits? According to Epic Games, about 14 years old.
Epic Games’ popular free-to-play online game, Fortnite, has suffered repeatedly from an influx of cheaters and hackers—players who unfairly utilise the game’s code to give them the ability to fly, to fire with perfect accuracy, and generally ruin the game for everyone around them.
In response to these cheaters, Epic Games has taken the battle to the court system. In October, Polygon revealed that the Fortnite developer had filed suit against one Brandon Broom and Charles Vraspir, the alleged creators of software that allowed the use of bots in Epic Games’ title—cases which Epic Games won, with spectacular results.
These lawsuits have continued in recent months, but the most surprising new target is that of a minor: a 14-year-old gamer who has been accused of using aimbots in Fortnite.
The 14-year-old in question allegedly downloaded aim-bots, well-known to frustrated gamers screaming “fucking HAX” everywhere, which can cost between $5 and $15 a month, according to Kotaku—but could really cost the young gamer up to $150,000 per incident, if previous lawsuit standards were applied.
For many gamers, the idea of a cheater getting their just desserts might be a delightful one—but it appears that Epic Games didn’t consider one particularly voracious hurdle in their way: the boy’s mother.
Mum’s the word
This gamer mum has hit back against the Fortnite developers, stating in a legal response to Epic Games that the lawsuit was based on a whole slew of inaccuracies—and she has a damned good argument.
She states that her son did not enter a legally binding contract with Epic Games—something that the lawsuit relies upon—citing that there was no age gate, nor any option for parental consent: something that would be required for such a contract to exist, as business contracts cannot be entered into with minors.
She goes on to question the ability of her 14-year-old son to cause enough profit loss through his actions to significantly affect their bottom line, requesting Epic Games’ attorneys to “provide a Profit and Loss statement to prove [her son] live-streaming playing their game caused mass profit loss”. She then said that this is “feasibly impossible”.
She rounds off her tirade with an accusation of Epic Games using her son as a scapegoat, and saying that Epic Games itself is in violation of the law, as it released the name of her son, a minor—very much against the law in the State of Delaware.
Epic Games’ response
Epic Games has taken the time to respond publicly to this letter, stating to Engadget:
“This particular lawsuit arose as a result of the defendant filing a DMCA counterclaim to a takedown notice on a YouTube video that exposed and promoted Fortnite Battle Royale cheats and exploits. Under these circumstances, the law requires that we file suit or drop the claim.
Epic is not okay with ongoing cheating or copyright infringement from anyone at any age. As stated previously, we take cheating seriously, and we’ll pursue all available options to make sure our games are fun, fair, and competitive for players.”
Interestingly, Epic Games has also pointed out that the defendant broadcasted himself on YouTube using the cheat, showed his viewers where they could get the cheats themselves and even asked for donations from his viewers. This video was brought down, and the young player filed a DMCA counterclaim: an action which caused Epic Games to pursue this lawsuit in the first place, apparently, as they considered this to be a step too far.
And the budding YouTuber himself? He took to the platform to highlight what he considers as a highly unfair situation:
His defence boils down to the fact that he wasn’t trying to ruin the community, and that the cheats are “fucking everywhere”. Personally, I would leave this argument to Mum if I were him.
This case continues through the court process, with no word yet as to whether the court is going to respond to the letter and who may come out as the winner here—though I have to say, my money is on the legally savvy gamer mum to win out in this one!