Is it illegal to cheat at video games?

While the legality of creating or distributing cheats or modifications to competitive video games has been explored through different lawsuits, a recent court case against a 14 year old explores a different aspect of cheating in video games.

In Epic Games v. Rogers, defendant C.R. (whose name has been redacted once it was discovered that he was a minor) is being sued by Fortnite studio Epic Games “for live-streaming himself using a cheat he found online and then linking out to it in the YouTube description box.”

“C.R. has a YouTube channel with over 8,000 subscribers. One day, he was live-streaming a demo of a Fortnite cheat when Epic issued a takedown. When YouTube took his video down, C.R. belligerently posted a second video in protest.”

From Epic Games v. Rogers

C.R. then created a new YouTube account to live stream the cheat again. This new video got taken down, prompting C.R. to file a DMCA counter-notification over the first video.

“i did noting rong this strike is all wrong i was modding in a video game that isnt against youtubes TOS Why was i striked!!!!”

It was probably this counter-notice that kicked off the unlikely lawsuit to begin with. The way that DMCA counter-notices work is that YouTube will keep the content offline for 10 days, but if the copyright claimant — in this case, Epic Games — files a legal action, YouTube has to continue to keep it offline. And that’s exactly what Epic Games did, before even realizing they were going after a 14-year-old. […]

By playing Fortnite without his mother’s permission, technically speaking, C.R. is outside of the EULA. But also technically speaking, playing Fortnite without being covered under the EULA might be a digital trespass, or worse, computer fraud and abuse. That might sound wild and ridiculous in a world where minors are almost certainly clicking through EULAs without their parents’ permission, but the whole underage internet exists on the precarious legal fiction that all these teens are being supervised by their parents, who are bound by these contracts that no one is actually reading.

But, minors can still get sued for copyright infringement, so this is interesting but irrelevant.

Epic Games is claiming that C.R. violated copyright law by modifying his version of Fortnite with a downloaded mod and then again violated copyright law by live streaming the game on YouTube.

Why it’s hot

Video game mods on YouTube are hugely popular, with series like Polygon’s “Touch The Skyrim,” “in which one host installs a bunch of weird mods on Skyrim and the other host plays through haplessly while trying to figure out what the mods do.” But the 1998 copyright decision Micro Star v. FormGen found that user-created levels within Duke Nukem were derivative works. While streamers might have a case for claiming fair use for something like “Touch The Skyrim,” the player versus player (PvP) mechanics of competitive games like Fortnite mean that mods can really harm the company’s profits. Epic Games is going after players create or distribute cheats for Fortnite, making in clear that they view cheating as a serious threat to their business. Some of the other defendants, however, have not responded with the same level of grativas.

It’s possible that C.R. would not have been sued if he hadn’t fought the DMCA notice or… doxed an Epic Games in-house lawyer… but “while everyone else who was caught in Epic’s shotgun blast of lawsuits late last year has either settled out or defaulted in court, C.R. is the last one remaining, defiantly posting videos as recently as two days ago.”

Read more at The Verge