More than three years ago, Epic Games decided to take several Fortnite cheaters to court, accusing them of copyright infringement.
Pretty much all of these lawsuits have been settled but there is one that proved to be quite a challenge.
One of the alleged cheaters, who was also accused of advertising and distributing the cheat via his YouTube channel, turned out to be a minor. The game publisher wasn’t aware of this when it filed the lawsuit, but the kid’s mother let the company know in clear terms.
“This company is in the process of attempting to sue a 14-year-old child,” the mother informed the court back in 2017.
The letter was widely publicized in the press but Epic Games didn’t back off. Due to his young age, the Carolina District Court ordered that the kid, who operated the “Sky Orbit” YouTube channel, should only be referred to by his initials C.R. The case itself continued, albeit slowly.
Since C.R. didn’t retain an attorney or otherwise respond in court, Epic filed a motion for default judgment. The court didn’t accept this right away, however, instead deciding that the mother’s letter should be treated as a motion to dismiss the case.
Among other defenses, the mother highlighted that the EULA, which the game publisher relies heavily upon in the complaint, isn’t legally binding. The EULA states that minors require permission from a parent or legal guardian, which was not the case here.
Default judgments Denied
The court reviewed these arguments but concluded that they were not sufficient to dismiss the case. After that ruling things went quiet. Neither C.R. nor his mom responded, which prompted Epic Games to file another motion for default judgment, which was also denied.
According to the court, it is not allowed to order default judgments against minors who haven’t been represented. That brought the case back to square one, and Epic Games saw no other option than to ask the court to appoint a guardian to represent C.R. This request was granted in the summer of 2019.
This strategy eventually paid off and it brought all parties together again. After more than three years, Epic Games and C.R have agreed to settle the case.
The legal paperwork doesn’t reveal any details regarding the outcome. Epic Games specifically asked to keep the agreement out of the public eye, to protect C.R. who hasn’t turned 18 yet.
“In this case, the minor Defendant’s privacy interests outweigh the public interest to access,” Epic Games informed the court (pdf).
“There is no proper purpose or public service that could be achieved by public disclosure of the private details of the settlement agreement – rather, the minor could be exposed to public scrutiny and unfairly disadvantaged as a result.”
Money Isn’t a Motive
Since C.R. previously continued promoting cheats on YouTube while the lawsuit was active, we assume that the settlement will strictly forbid this type of activity going forward.
A large settlement sum seems unlikely, as previous cases have shown that the games developer isn’t trying to financially ruin its targets. The company is mainly interested in preventing them from cheating in the future.
At the time of writing, the court has yet to officially approve the settlement publicly. The docket lists an order dated today, but that’s sealed and not available to outsiders.