With Epic’s Fornite: Battle Royale gaining traction and fans, it’s inevitable that it would also attract the attention of hackers. The game has a lot of issues with people cheating their way to success, and it’s been whack-a-mole time for Epic since its launch. In an attempt to show force and try get cheaters to think twice about crossing them, Epic’s legal team gathered evidence against players using cheats in the game, and proceeded to sue a bunch of cheaters for $150,000 each (approximately R2 million) for damages.
Only, one of the cheaters is a 14-year old boy.
According to GameInformer, last month Epic filed suits against cheaters in Fortnite, starting with two players in North Carolina, Brandon Broom and Charles Vraspir, who together worked on software that enabled cheating in the game. In both cases, Epic is pushing for the full $150,000 fine for copyright infringement. That’s not $150,000 for the whole modding project, that is a fine per transgression. It could easily balloon to over a million dollars in damages if Epic’s legal team plays their cards right. Cheating services like these aren’t free, and some charge a subscription fee for access to software that is constantly updated to work around developers closing loopholes.
In a letter to the US District Court Eastern District of North Carolina, Rogers’ mother wrote to the court to notify them that not only is Caleb a minor but that Epic Games also broke the law by revealing his identity in their suit. She goes on to note that she never gave Caleb permission to play Fortnite (a requirement in the EULA), that Epic cannot prove he modified the game himself as the lawsuit suggests, and that since the game’s Battle Royale mode is currently free-to-play, no loss of profit could have occurred because no-one pays to play it.
What’s interesting is how this suit came about. Epic used a DMCA take-down notice on one of Rogers’ videos on his channel that promoted cheats and exploits that players could use in the game. Rogers issued a counter-claim to Epic, prompting them for evidence that the take-down notice was legal. In Epic’s own words, “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.”
So, to resolve the situation, Epic proceeded to sue Rogers.
No information about the court case is available at this time, but it would be an interesting test case for US law. No-one has ever tried to sue an underage player for cheating in a multiplayer game. This could end up backfiring for Epic Games because someone might bring up the excuse that Fortnite isn’t using server-side protections to prevent cheating.
Like Ubisoft’s The Division or GTA Online, all of the client information resides on the client’s computer, and at any time that information can be changed by a third-party program to give the player an advantage like having unlimited hit points, endless amounts of money, or one-hit kills from a single bullet. The lack of protections means that it is easily exploited, and to prove guilt Epic would have to seize the computers of hackers and use data forensics to prove that there was tampering of game files.