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Free Game Company Sues 14-Year-Old Over 'Cheats' Video -- Claiming DMCA Violation ( 239

Bizzeh shared this report from the BBC: A mother has written a letter in defense of her 14-year-old son who is facing a lawsuit over video game cheats in the US. Caleb Rogers is one of two people facing legal action from gaming studio Epic Games for using cheat software to play the free game Fortnite. The studio says it has taken the step because the boy declined to remove a YouTube video he published which promoted how to use the software... "This company is in the process of attempting to sue a 14-year-old child," she wrote in the letter which has been shared online by the news site Torrentfreak.

Ms. Rogers added that she had not given her son parental consent to play the game as stated in its terms and conditions, and that as the game was free to play the studio could not claim loss of profit as a result of the cheats... In a statement given to the website Kotaku, Epic Games said the lawsuit was a result of Mr. Rogers "filing a DMCA counterclaim to a takedown notice on a YouTube video that exposed and promoted Fortnite Battle Royale cheats and exploits... Epic is not OK with ongoing cheating or copyright infringement from anyone at any age," it said.

Cory Doctorow counters that the 14-year-old "correctly asserted that there was no copyright infringement here. Videos that capture small snippets of a videogame do not violate that game creator's copyrights, because they are fair use..."
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Free Game Company Sues 14-Year-Old Over 'Cheats' Video -- Claiming DMCA Violation

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  • The DMCA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Is worse than Hitler.

    • by ChoGGi ( 522069 )

      The video may not be copyright infringing, but I recall Blizzard making claims cheat tools are.
      Maybe momma shouldn't have written a letter admitting her little shithead was using a cheat tool...

      I don't really care who loses, this one's fun all around :)

      • Re:The DMCA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @06:49PM (#55665463)

        That was sort of my feeling as well. Screw the DMCA, but screw cheaters as well. And screw parents that defend their misbehaving little spawn no matter what they do.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          That's the thing here. The kid is in the wrong for spreading cheats, and he can be sued for damaging Epic's business (I believe Blizzard and others have successfully done this in the past). Epic is in the wrong for trying to use DMCA, which does not apply in this case. They should have gone to court and gotten a cease and desist order, at which point the kid (and YouTube would have had to pull down the video or be in contempt of court). The parents are in the wrong for defending their cheating little sh

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

            It amazes me the level of hatred aimed at cheating, the level of seriousness to me is less than that of littering - a cigarette butt. It's not a crime in the UK where we don't have the god awful DMCA laws, it's just something annoying that sad people do, probably mostly kids. People need to get some perspective.

            • Re:The DMCA (Score:5, Insightful)

              by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @09:16PM (#55665987)

              the level of seriousness to me is less than that of littering

              Well it's not world ending, but cheating in online games to me is more than littering. It's more like letting your dog shit on the path and not cleaning it up. It annoys everyone around you and spoils the environment for all, not to mention directly affects the person who comes in contact with it.

              • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

                Your fallacy is confusing "value" with "money".
                Even if it were completely free (it isn't), the game still holds value in other forms; advertising space ("free" as in "search engine"), reputation ("free" as in "sponsored event"), market research ("free" as in "free sample").

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BronsCon ( 927697 )
            What damage? It's a free game, they can't claim monetary losses, as there were no potential monetary gains. The court doesn't really recognize any other form of damages when dealing with a business.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              I presume they make their money on in-game purchases. The "free" just means that no initial investment is required by the consumer. As their money comes from in-game purchases (which presumably will by-and-large be purchased by people playing the game), anything that negatively affects their player base by decreasing the quality of the game can legitimately be considered monetary loss.

              Why the parent was modded +5 insightful is beyond me.

              • As of this moment, it's fully free-to-play. Whether they choose to monetize it at some point in the future (the game's FAQ [] seems to indicate that they do) is immaterial; if the video is still up (and the courts agree that it's infringing) when they decide to monetize, then it will become an issue.

                I'm familiar with the game and, thus, have some insight that you appear to lack. That is why my comment was modded Insightful.
                • You have been around here long enough to know that ridiculous drivel gets nodded up and informative and insightful posts get nodded down regularly. I am not commenting one way or another on the quality of your post, but merely saying that you should know better than to try to claim that upmods are proof of quality.
          • Yeah they could do that OR...just spitballing here...they could fix their buggy ass code that allows cheating in the first place and call it a about that?

            Let us be honest here okay? The kid is pointing out the house is on fire, removing the kid? Not gonna put out the fire. If your game is easily exploitable by cheat tools then you have MUCH BIGGER PROBLEMS than some 14 year old kid because how do you think the fricking kid found it? Think he coded that shit?

            Until they patch the code you should c

        • Hae?
          The cheats in question are most likely build into the game.
          And as long as it is not a multiplayer game, who cares what other cheat tools he is using to 'to have fun'?

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        More details on the cheating tools used would be helpful. The first seems to be aim-botting (which is using AI scripts to automatic aim weapons). The other is stream-sniping which involves intercepting someone's else servers communication to see their screen and make annoying comments on their strategy. []

      • It is pretty hard to imagine a situation where a 'cheat tool' can be a copyright infringement.

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          Do the cheat tools manipulate any copyrighted code or data in violation of the license?
          Does the video promote distribution of such tools?
          I agree such an interpretation of copyright is bullshit, but it works for sites posting links to bittorrents.

    • Is worse than Hitler.

      What an utterly idiotic and pathetic thing to say. If the DMCA required this young boy to commit suicide to avoid himself and his family to be arrested and convicted to death by hanging, then it would still be stupid. Not utterly idiotic anymore, but stupid.

    • signed into law by a Democrat!

      • by meglon ( 1001833 ) []

        Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998.... []

        Both chambers had a Republican majority. []

        To pass a bill over the president's objections requires a two-thirds vote in each Chamber.

        That should be plenty of information to help you understand why your comment probably looks pretty damn stupid to anyone who actually knows anything about government.

    • The issue in this case isn't that he was showing video of the game, rather he was showing how to use a particular cheat tool, which he also specified how to obtain, to inject code into the live game to cheat. The violation is the code injection. Of course the company doesn't like people cheating or encouraging others to cheat either, as that messes things up for everyone.
      As I recall, several cases have already been won on copyright infringement against code injection cheats already.
      The kid was stupid, cocky
  • by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @05:45PM (#55665209) Homepage
    The attorneys for Epic games just filed a document with the court [] saying they did not know he was 14.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      They have known for at least a week now. They are free to offer a simple out of court settlement such as "Pinky swear not to do it again and we'll drop the whole thing." They haven't done so. So, they are, in fact, knowingly suing a 14 year old over cheating in a free to play game.

      Further, they initially filed a DMCA complaing (an allegation of copyright infringement). They now claim that they are obligated to sue since he filed a counter-claim. But the suit isn't for infringement. Thus, they knowingly file

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        As the child isn't considered an adult it is the mother that have legal responsibility. But as the person that did the things EPIC think are against the DMCA directing the suit towards the child that will in practice be swapped by the proxy (mother) it shouldn't make any difference.

        Unless my understanding of the legal system in the US is wrong that is. Wouldn't be surprised.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          I well understand that. OP was trying to apologize for Epic, claiming they just "didn't know" they were acting like scumballs. I pointed out that they damned well know it now and it hasn't apparently changed their plans.

        • No, your understanding of the US legal system is wrong. I am not a lawyer, so so is mine! But here is my understanding.

          Parents are financially responsible for their children. Legal responsibility does not otherwise pass through to them. The contract is either valid for the minor, or it isn't. Contracts with children are often valid to the extent that the service was provided, but provisions restricting the cancellation of the contract don't apply. Also, the company is usually required to have to considered

        • My understanding is that you file suit against a minor he is appointed a "legal guardian" (usually a state attorney to assume responsibility for the lawsuit) by the court. I think the mother may have financial responsibility but not legal responsibility for the actions of her children. IANAL, though.
      • Well there the issue that he disputed it, so he's already saying he will do it again. And his mom chimed in backing him up, so they can't expect her to do her parental duty and prevent him from doing something he's not supposed to be doing that illegal act he recorded in the first place on a game he's not supposed to be playing because he's too young.
    • "We sued someone and didn't even know how old they were."

      If you know that little about who you are suing, isn't that grounds for it to be thrown out immediately?

  • They may have a case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattventura ( 1408229 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @05:46PM (#55665217) Homepage
    Not sure if it went anywhere, but Blizzard was trying to sue a cheat producer a while back. Basically, the logic was "the EULA is a license to use this copyrighted work, if you break the EULA then you no longer have a license, thus cheaters are pirates". So making a video on how to cheat could very well be some kind of contributory copyright infringement. Not saying I agree with it or that it's not an overreaction, but I'm certainly not going to rush to defend an avowed cheater, 14 y/o or otherwise.
    • Then people would upload footage from other players, thus no longer breaking the EULA.

      • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @06:10PM (#55665305)
        Many moons ago, software industry lobbyists went to court in the U.S. claiming that software "cannot be bought or owned" by the paying customer. They claimed that the buyer can only attain a "limited LICENSE to USE a software product under CERTAIN conditions". The legal argument behind the whole LICENSE aspect was that because CODE is copied from one component in a computer to another during use - from floppy disk to RAM to CPU for example - the software user is essentially making a COPY of the software just by running it on a computer, and thus needs a LICENSE to do so. Somehow this resulted in today's EULAs, where, basically, the software manufacturer has all the RIGHTS in the world, and the paying software buyer has does not even - legally - OWN the copy of the software he or she paid hard cash for.
    • the EULA is a license to use this copyrighted work,

      Except I don't need an EULA to use a copyrighted work. Copyright law applies to my right to copy it. DMCA applies to providing information, services or products that are used to circumvent copyright. Interpretation outside of this is suspicious and can lead us into absurdly extreme hypothetical legal situations.

      I can certainly agree to an EULA in exchange for something. Violating that EULA is not a copyright violation but a civil law case. Damages are possible. Revoking my access to products or services is

      • by pots ( 5047349 )
        The parent didn't describe the case entirely accurately. The claim that Blizzard made was that in order you play the game you need to make a copy - you copy from your hard drive to RAM. This copy is authorized if you're abiding by the EULA, but not authorized if you're in violation of the EULA. Thus they claimed that this particular botting software was a copyright circumvention tool.

        The court agreed with them, and so that's how it is.
    • Blizzards argument was that the cheat modified the game and thus was in breach of the EULA of the copyrighted work.

      On the other hand making a video about how to cheat is fair game.

    • But if they have a point then so does the boy's mother when she says he isn't legally able to accept the EULA. Because, you know, he's not an adult. Hopefully Epic pushes this hard, and then the case gets picked up on the defense by the EFF and goes all the way to trial because I'd love to see the look on the C level execs' faces at Epic when the court rules that he didn't breach the EULA because he couldn't agree to it legally, and OH BY THE WAY, Epic (and all other game companies) need to put measures i

    • EULAs are questionable and I don't think they've gone all the way through a good case yet, but that's besides the point.
      The courts have already nailed several cheaters for violating copyright by injecting code into the game in memory to alter it (to cheat). Wanna guess what the cheat the kid was showing does? That's right, it injects code. So with several cases as precedent for that exact thing, yeah he's screwed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 02, 2017 @06:06PM (#55665289)

    Instead of legal action they should taking coding action to prevent these sorts of abuses from being possible...

    I learnt as a kid if you don't want someone to take something don't leave it where it can be taken... leave your bike on the street it will be stolen... write shitty code it will be hacked..

    PSA on behalf of "the internet"...

    Thank the kid and close the holes....

  • Would play a game you could get sued for. Yeah, yeah. Don't cheat. But whose to say they won't Sue you anyway?
  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @06:52PM (#55665475)

    The lawsuit itself is actually a result of a huge problem with YouTube's DMCA takedown system.

    Youtube tries to stay out of taking sides itself in any DMCA claim, to avoid liability. Here's what happens when you use the DMCA takedown system on YouTube, which I have done so myself to remove clear infringements using my content:

    You are someone who thinks there is an infringing video on youtube. You submit a DMCA takedown claim via an automated interface on YouTube.

    If the claim is not responded to, the video in question is taken down. HOWEVER, if the recipient of the takedown claim files a counterclaim, the ONLY way you can counter that counter claim is to provide YouTube with evidence that you have taken legal action against the recipient, i.e. FILED A LAWSUIT.

    So basically, for little guys like me with no money for legal action, you are basically up a creek. Most of the time when I file a takedown notice for clear infringement (someone just re-uploaded my video in its entirety) it's gone and doesn't come back. But one time someone decided to submit a counter claim making arguments for fair use that would assuredly fail in a court of law, but youtube again will not take sides and will leave the video up unless I provide evidence to YouTube that I have taken legal action against the counter-claimer.

    In this case, since the people who submitted the takedown notice are a company with lawyer power, they CAN start a legal claim and basically MUST do so to get youtube to take down the video when the video's owner refuses to do it themselves.

    There is no decision making or moderation on the part of YouTube. They just pass the buck.

    Now in this case, I would be on the side of the defendant, because it appears to be a case of fair use, as is any footage of videogame play, companies trying to get you to agree to a dubious license when playing the game nonwithstanding.

    But YouTube's way of handling these situations has helped bring this lawsuit upon the defendent. There is further mediation option or decision making on the part of YouTube. If you are a little guy who owns content that has been legitimately bootlegged you are screwed. If you are a big guy who owns content you have to sue. there is no moderation via youtube.

  • I play Fortnite (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @08:16PM (#55665755) Homepage Journal

    I like Fortnite, it's very much like PUBG. I don't like cheaters. If this causes concern for others so be it, maybe they will stop.

    That said I've not seen any cheats/cheating in Fortnite. I shoot someone and they kill me - I'm able to see the damage I inflicted as I become a spectator at that point. And always satisfied it being a good kill.

  • by NimbleSquirrel ( 587564 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @09:44PM (#55666093)
    One of the key elements of this case that people seem to be overlooking is that this kid registered an account (supposedly without the required parental consent), cheated in the game and got banned. Instead of stopping, he did it again and got banned again. He then did it again... and again... and again. He got banned 14 times (according to Epic Games; the kid admits to being banned, but says 'it was like 5 or 10 times'). It is clear he knew what he was doing was wrong, and he kept on doing it.

    This kid also made multiple video streams that showed people how to perform the cheats as well as showing the cheats in action. This is the part that raised the DMCA claims, as Epic Games claimed that the cheat videos were an unauthorized derivative works. The kid's response was to file counterclaims (although it is clear from his lawsuit response video he has no clue what filing a counterclaim actually meant). He even created a second YouTube account to get around claims/bans. Again, it is clear he knew that he was doing something wrong, but kept on doing it. This left Epic Games with no other legal alternative but to sue.

    The letter from the kid's mother doesn't even try to deny the claims from Epic Games, and she even admits he was cheating. Her defense boils down to "he was 14 years old so the rules don't apply". While the law states he cannot enter into a contract, that does not mean he cannot be legally liable for his actions. On top of this it is clear that the mother also has a legal responsibility here. She says she didn't consent to him installing the game, but that does not absolve her of the responsibilities for policing her son's actions. It is very clear from the kid's response videos he has absolutely no understanding of the repercussions of his actions and is just relying on mommy to leap to his defense.

    I, respectfully, disagree with Cory Doctrow here that there is a fair use claim. If the kid's mother is to be believed (that she didn't give consent) then the kid was running the game in violation of the EULA and using false accounts in violation of TOS, meaning the game footage was illegitimate. He was also running cheats on the game, making the videos unauthorized derivative works. This is something very different from a 'Let's Play' video.

    While I normally hate DMCA cases, there is very clear evidence for the kid's utter disregard for the rules (especially if you watch his videos in response to the lawsuit), so I think he (and his mother) deserve to have a lesson. I doubt the letter to the Judge will be very persuasive here. It is not any kind of formal Motion to Dismiss the case, and many judges don't like it when people try to sidestep process.
    • Disregard for the rules yes, but I fail to see how that enables - morally - sound grounding for potential abuse of the DMCA unless it can be demonstrated that the actions actually do violate the DMCA, of course.
      • ...I fail to see how that enables - morally - sound grounding for potential abuse of the DMCA unless it can be demonstrated that the actions actually do violate the DMCA, of course.

        The use of the DMCA to take down cheating howto videos is a novel concept that has yet to be tested. However, the only way to demonstrate that his actions do violate the DMCA is in Court. There is no other way. This does not automatically make it abuse. Abuse would be if a court found that concept invalid and Epic Games kept using it for DMCA takedowns anyway.

        The only other reason that people seem to be claiming this as abuse is that the kid is 14 years old, but Epic Games had no way of knowing his age

        • It is an abuse. The dmca is pretty specific. If epic doesn't own the video then they cannot use the dmca to issue a takedown. To say otherwise is to cheat. Epic will first need to prove they own the video. The court would also have to hear the case where epic would have to prove it is an actual cheat. It would further have to prove harm as in monetary loss.

          They have a long road ahead. They can't just pick on some 14 year old kid by threatening his family's well being. Remember the kid didn't write t

    • by bsolar ( 1176767 )

      I, respectfully, disagree with Cory Doctrow here that there is a fair use claim. If the kid's mother is to be believed (that she didn't give consent) then the kid was running the game in violation of the EULA and using false accounts in violation of TOS, meaning the game footage was illegitimate. He was also running cheats on the game, making the videos unauthorized derivative works. This is something very different from a 'Let's Play' video.

      I do agree the kid violated the EULA and the TOS, but this doesn't mean his Youtube video was in violation of Epic Games' copyrights.

      You seem to imply that to invoke fair use you need to have a proper copyright license first. Fair use is meant to allow in specific cases to re-use a copyrighted work or parts of it *without* a proper license. Even assuming the kid had no license at all, fair use is still possible.

    • While being 14 doesn't excuse his behavior, being 14 is part of the reason for his behavior. At 14, the brain isn't fully developed, and decision-making abilities are very different from those of adults. Adolescent brains don't always consider the consequences of their actions, even if they have encountered them before. This is one of the reasons that minors cannot legally enter into contracts or make a lot of important decisions for themselves and require a parent or legal guardian to act on their behalf.
  • This kid puts up a video showing people how to use cheating software. Cheating software has been previously established [] to be a copyright circumvention tool, thus the kid was clearly committing secondary copyright infringement.

    Doctorow could have pointed out that this was dumb, that this was another example of why the DMCA is bad, but instead he claims that there was no copyright infringement going on and talks a lot about how the kid is fourteen years old (as though that were important). He also makes m
    • Untrue. The prior suits were over the sale of cheats, re: the blizzard lawsuits. Yes blizzard is right in saying it violates the anti circumvention part of the dmca. And blizzard could show harm in those cases. However, the kid is NOT guilty of secondary copyright infringement anymore so than if he were to write a letter about it or speak about it to others.

      • by pots ( 5047349 )
        He made an instructional video for how to implement cheating software. Properly it should be called tertiary infringement, since he's one step removed from secondary, but I don't think that's an actual legal term. His video is a tool to help implement the cheating software which is a tool to help the player commit copyright infringement.

        I suppose that the question comes down to whether the video qualifies as a tool or as speech, but given that it exists only to help accomplish a given task, and not to co
  • Humanity is not OK with suing children at any age.
    Deal with cheating the way it's meant to be done, and if you really care about the public image of your company, drop that lawsuit already, instead of making up supposedly unwritten, omertà-like rules of business life in order to justify your antisocial behaviour. DMCA is not a tool for businesses to suppress things they don't like.
  • That's Epic MegaGames.

    You know, the ones that have been around since the 1990s. Jazz Jackrabbit, anyone? Unreal Tournament. Gears of War.

    They release one free-to-play title and suddenly they're a "Free Game Company"?

    • by quarrel ( 194077 )

      Their biggest earner is I assume as creator of the Unreal Engine- they must be making a mint off pubg.


  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @07:07AM (#55667281)
    Epic is behaving with epic stupidity. They've just created a public relations nightmare. Because suing a member of their primary demographic just makes so much goddamned sense ....
  • What Epic did is a misuse of the dmca, and the kid is right to fight it. Epic does not own the copyright to the video nor the cheat app. I dislike cheat apps immensely but I dislike more that Epic is itself cheating by abusing their position in misusing and abusing the dmca.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.