Cheating in multiplayer video games has been prevalent since the days of arcades. Now that we live in a more advanced gaming world, cheaters are no longer limited to screen hopping and smacking controllers out of their opponent’s hands. Much more sophisticated now, many games are plagued by third-party cheating programs that give cheaters an edge.
Historically, cases of cheating on online-multiplayer platforms have been answered with a ban on the offending player. In a recent move, Epic Games has changed the precedent and taken legal action against two players of the free-to-play game Fortnite regarding cheating software.
It became complicated for Epic Games when one of the players they took legal action against was 14-years old. His mother is far from happy with the lawsuit, as noted in an article from The Verge by Nick Statt (https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/27/16707562/epic-games-fortnite-cheating-lawsuit-debate-14-year-old-kid).
The mother of the 14-year old sent a letter to the judge of the lawsuit, urging the case be dismissed. In the letter she says no legal action can be taken against he son for numerous reasons. Not only is he a minor, but he did not develop or sell the cheating program in question, and Epic Games cannot prove her son’s use of cheating programs lost them money on their free-to-play game.
Epic Games, however, says they have the right of it. Their legal action does not stem from the use of cheating software, as the mother’s letter assumes, but from the 14-year old’s promotion of this software with a YouTube video he posted. The teen’s video received a DMCA takedown notice from Epic Games, and the teen responded with a DMCA counterclaim and refused to remove the video.
Effectively, by doing this the boy pushed Epic Games into a decision: Either they drop the claim and open the door to more people posting these videos, or they could file the lawsuit in the hopes to put a stop to it. Obviously, they decided to take action.
What is left by these events is a quagmire of legal questions. The use and development of cheating software is prohibited by a game’s terms, not illegal by law of the land, blurring the lines of any legal proceedings to begin with.
With concerns in DMCA regulations, legal action against minors, and pursuance of promoters of cheating software, this is a lawsuit which, if pursued, will dance through the foggy legal sphere of online gaming and media.