Two years ago, Epic Games decided to take several Fortnite cheaters to court, accusing them of copyright infringement.
Several of these lawsuits have been settled but there is one that proved to be somewhat of a challenge.
One of the alleged cheaters turned out to be a minor who’s also accused of demonstrating, advertising and distributing the cheat via his YouTube channel. 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, however, 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.
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 a motion for a default judgment again.
Epic isn’t looking for any massive damages, but it mainly wants C.R. to refrain from any future infringing activities. This includes cheating as well as posting videos on YouTube where this type of activity is promoted.
Generally speaking, such motions are easily granted, since there is no opposing party to dispute any claims. However, in this case, the court decided differently, with the age of the alleged cheater playing an important role.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not allow default judgments against minors who haven’t been represented. Epic tried to cover this by arguing that the mother’s letter counted as representation, but the North Carolina Court disagrees.
In his order denying the motion for default judgment, US District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard mentions that the court previously emphasized that the letter in question was not seen as an “official appearance by anyone on behalf of the minor defendant.”
“In light of the circumstances herein, based on the facts currently before the court, and pursuant to Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must deny plaintiff’s motion for default judgment,” Judge Malcolm J. Howard concludes.
This means that after roughly two years, Epic is back to square one and that the accused cheater will ‘walk’ free.
Whether C.R. is still involved in any cheating activity is unknown. His original “Sky Orbit” YouTube account is no longer active though, and a backup was deleted as well, due to “multiple third-party claims of copyright infringement.”
A copy of the order denying the motion for a defauly judgment is available here (pdf).