YouTube personality Brandon “Golden Modz” Lucas, and his sometimes side-kick, Colton “Excentric” Conter, are being sued in a North Carolina Federal Court by Epic Games over the Fortnite aimbot cheats they’ve created and sold on their various YouTube channels.
Lucas, who has over 1.7 million YouTube followers, claims that others create and sell the same thing, and that Epic is being unfair in targeting him. Perhaps. But if he thinks that what he is doing is not illegal, he may have another thing coming.
What’s the Harm in Getting a Little Help?
Cheat codes have been around for decades, usually though in the form of game developers giving them to publications in exchange for money or free advertisement. But when the financial gains are made by someone else, apparently there’s an issue.
According to Epic, because Fortnite is played against other people, by purchasing an unfair advantage, it ruins the playing experience for the opponent. Therefore, Epic claims, “We take cheating seriously, and we’ll pursue all available options to make sure our games are fun, fair, and competitive for players.” Evidently, since this isn’t the first lawsuit Epic has filed against 14-year-old YouTube cheaters.
Is Selling Cheats Really That Illegal?
The simple answer is yes. There are a host of legal issues involved here, probably too deep for a “legally weird” article, but they basically involve the software code. When you buy a game, you don’t really buy a game. You buy a license to play the game. You don’t own the game, or consequently the code on the game. It will always be against the license’s terms of service to reverse engineer the game code to create a cheat. This creates a breach of the license contract. And since this is breached, it then becomes a copyright violation as well. By selling this code to other people, who have to violate their game licenses to use the code, Lucas is interfering with other people’s contracts. And for good measure, Epic is throwing in the old “unfair and deceptive trade practices” for selling the cheats.
If found guilty, Lucas and Center face a stiff civil and criminal penalty, including potential jail time as well possibly precluding either from many jobs, including any with access to company computer systems. And that’s a real bummer, because evidently these kids are techno-wizards.
If you or your friends are facing cease and desist letters, or lawsuits, regarding cheats, take them seriously. There is big money in game development. You may want to partake in that years down the road, and being found guilty of any of these crimes puts your career in jeopardy. Contact a business lawyer soon, and walk the straight and narrow, even if that’s not where the fun’s at right now.