The video gaming industry is a massive, multi billion dollar business in the United States. It is also a business that is almost totally intangible (with the exception of merchandise sales that carry the branding of individual companies or game titles.
Computer code is copyrightable, and before any major titles are released, that software is in fact protected by trademarks and/or copyrights.
As one would expect, the video game developers protect their intellectual property through the use of copyrights, patents, trademarks, all of which are enforceable. If they can't protect their IP, then they don't have a product to sell.
There are a couple of new concepts at play in this legal update, but the basis for litigation described below is traditional copyright law.
If you have a child or young person in your life who is under the age of 18, you know that one of the most widely watched type of YouTube videos are gaming videos, where a video gamer has recorded (or has livestreamed) his or her gameplay, and provided commentary of what he or she is doing. The actual online environment of the game is broadcast via YouTube.
One thing that gamers tend to publish on YouTube are cheat codes for certain video games. What is a cheat code? A cheat code is just what it sounds like they are: pieces of software that can be downloaded that give the cheat code user special powers or abilities within the game that other players do not have. With the rise of multiplayer games, there is an expectation in the game player community that the playing field (no matter how virtual) is level, and that all players are operating within the same online environment without unfair advantage. More on that later.
It's not surprising then that a company like Epic Games would file suit in federal court alleging a copyright infringement claim, among other claims, against an individual who admitted to using cheat codes on his YouTube channel. Why? The plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated Epic's End User Licensing Agreement ("EULA") by using and broadcasting the cheat and refusing to take down the YouTube video, among other copyright infringement claims. It is important to note two things: 1) the original game was free, and apparently there was no consideration paid for the initial game, and 2) the defendant is a minor.
There are many questions before the court in this case. Is a cheat code a violation of copyright law? Is an EULA enforceable against a minor? Did the plaintiff violate the defendant's privacy by publishing his name?
While this case is in the beginning stages, there will be additional updates as it progresses.