Epic Games’ Lawsuits: When Game Developers Enforce their Copyrights Against Hackers

Epic Games Photo Attribution @SergeyGalyonkin
Epic Games Photo Attribution @SergeyGalyonkin

Whether you consider yourself a casual or professional gamer, or lie somewhere in between, or if you have ever played a video game before, whether it was on a home console, portable console, a computer, or on a mobile device, you have had to agree to the terms of use before playing any game (whether you actually decided to read the terms or not). Every game developer has as part of their terms some clause that prohibits players from hacking, cheating, or otherwise altering or interfering with the natural flow of the game in any capacity.

Game hackers are an ever-growing group of the gaming community, and there are several websites and even YouTube videos of people showing off their hacking skills, and even posting hacking tutorials on how to hack any game you want to play. Hacker break the game’s code in order to give themselves an unfair advantage over other players, whether it’s allowing a hacker to slow down the frame rate for all other players, giving yourself unlimited ammunition, or even making yourself permanently invulnerable to damage of any kind. Regardless of what kind of hack you’re using, anyone who plays a video game generally knows that hacking a game is not only against the game’s terms of service, but it is illegal. That still doesn’t stop people from trying though.

Well, one video game company is putting their foot down on the issue of hackers. Epic Games, Inc., the North Carolina-based video game development company is bringing a lawsuit against two hackers for copyright infringement of its battle arena style game, Fortnite Battle Royale. Epic Games was founded on February 2, 1991 by Tim Sweeney (its current CEO), and is the company behind games such as Infinity Blade, Gears of War (which Microsoft purchased from Epic), and the Unreal Engine technology that the popular game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (“PUBG”) was built on.

According to documents obtained by TorrentFreak, Epic Games has commenced lawsuits against two alleged cheaters, who go by names of Mr. Brandon Broom and Mr. Charles Vraspir. The complaint claims that Broom and Vraspir have been caught cheating and have been banned from the game on multiple occasions (at least nine times of Vraspir’s account), but they continue to play the game by creating new accounts in order to regain access. Epic’s filed complaints states that cheating, including enabling other players to cheat, is in clear violation of the terms and agreements that all players must agree to before they can access the game.

Broom and Vraspir both allegedly work with a cheat provider called AddictedCheats, and have tried to gain notoriety by showing others how to hack games. Vraspir is accused of having written the cheat code in question himself, while Broom has reportedly stated that he is working on a game hack to create “unwanted chaos and disorder” within the game. The defendants are both facing up to $150,000 in damages for copyright infringement should they lose this case. In a statement given to the major gaming news website called Imagine Games Network (“IGN”), an Epic spokesperson said that “When cheaters use aimbots or other cheat technology, they ruin games for people who are playing fairly. We take cheating seriously, and we’ll pursue all available options to make sure our games are fun, fair, and competitive for players.” Epic has indeed shown that they take the issue of cheating / hacking games very seriously, having previously stated that taking down cheaters is its “highest priority,” and having already banned thousands of cheaters from the Fortnite game.

Epic Games has also filed another lawsuit against two different cheaters, after which it was revealed that one of the defendants, whose name is Caleb Rogers, is a 14-year old minor from Delaware. Caleb’s mother sent a letter to the court, saying, among other things, that Epic is “using a 14 year-old child as a scapegoat[,]” instead of going after the websites that provide the software that players use to cheat with, and is also claiming that her son didn’t help create the software used for cheating, as Epic has alleged, but just downloaded it as a user. The defendant’s mother, in her statement, also stated that Fortnite’s terms require parental consent for minors, and that she never gave such consent, and added that by releasing her son’s name publicly in conjunction with the lawsuit, that Epic has violated Delaware laws related to the release of information on minors.

In a statement given to Kotaku about the incident, Epic stated that:

“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.”

Epic Games said the Rogers played Fortnite with the help of a downloadable cheat code that allows gamers to overpower their opponents by using tools and skills that others cannot. Epic Games claims that the cheat code allegedly injects an unauthorized computer code into the active memory of the game, thereby creating a different version of the game that violates the company’s copyright. The teen then posted multiple videos of himself hacking the game on YouTube, with each video explaining where other gamers could download the cheat code and with instructions on how they could hack the game themselves. The lawsuit also alleges that Rogers uploaded a new video every time Epic Games took one down under a DMCA copyright claim, and that he kept creating new accounts in the game, despite being banned at least 14 times. Finally, Epic claims that Roger’s cheating is ruining the fun of the game for other players and that it threatened Epic Games’ ability to profit off of its cooperative survival and building action game.

If you want to look up or follow the cases, you can do so by clicking the following links:

Epic Games, Inc. v. Vraspir, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, No. 5:17-cv-00512 (read the complaint here).

Epic Games, Inc. et. al. v. Broom, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, No. 5:17-cv-00511 (read the complaint here).

Epic Games, Inc. v. Rogers, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, No. 5:17-cv-00534.

 

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