Former Fortnite Tester Files Defence Over Allegedly Leaking Season Four Spoilers

Image: Epic Games

The makers of Fortnite and Fortnite Battle Royale, Epic Games, have filed a civil suit in the eastern district of North Carolina against a former QA contractor. It's claimed that Thomas Hannah "diminished the enjoyment" for Fortnite players by revealing secrets about the details of where the meteor would hit at the end of Fortnite's third season. Hannah's lawyers formally responded this week, saying he did not work with a third party to spread the information.

Hannah was hired by Epic in December and, as reported by Polygon, Hannah had a conversation with Adam DiMarco three weeks after resigning from Epic. Hannah and DiMarco allegedly spoke about details surrounding the upcoming Fortnite season, with Epic arguing that the secrets were disclosed during an internal meeting on March 16.

DiMarco later posted on Reddit (first on April 24, then again on April 27) that the meteor strike would hit Dusty Depot (which would become Dusty Divot) instead of Titled Towers, as many had suspected. Epic responded about a fortnight later with the lawsuit, saying that the leaks "dampen the enthusiasm of a game's players and audience, potentially leading them to move to other games".

"Defendant’s conduct is damaging to Epic in many ways. Just as leaked trade secrets generate significant traffic and revenue to the benefit of those who publish them, those leaks are destructive to the owner of the leaked material," Epic's lawsuit reads. It adds that "spoilers can reduce the level of skills required to discover, learn, and ably deploy winning strategies in the game".

A filing from Hannah's lawyer on June 21 argues that DiMarco guessed the correct location of the meteor strike and that he "unilaterally published the information he had deduced on his own". Hannah's defense, however, has admitted violating the NDA agreement they signed with Epic.

Epic's filing is pushing for punitive damages under state and federal trade secrets legislation, as well as legal costs. To read more, as well as the filings in full, head here.


Comments

    Based on Defendant’s initial response that it wouldn’t be hitting a place one would expect and, after further questions from DiMarco, that it wouldn’t be Titled Towers, DiMarco then gathered on his own and guessed if it would be Dusty Depot, to which Defendant confirmed yes.

    This is part of point 41 of Hannah's legal reply. So he told DiMarco it wouldn't hit somewhere people expected, he confirmed to DiMarco that it wasn't Tilted Towers, then he confirmed to DiMarco that it was Dusty Depot.

    The defence claim that DiMarco deduced it on his own should be plainly false - he didn't deduce it on his own, he deduced it on the basis of two previous statements Hannah had made, that it was somewhere unexpected and that it wasn't Tilted Towers. DiMarco came to the conclusion he did through information Hannah leaked, and then Hannah confirmed he was correct.

    This seems like a clear-cut breach of NDA to me.

    Ruin a guys life for some harmless hype-building. Nice epic.

      It's Epic's assertion that the information leaked was not harmless. There's another article on Kotaku today about a game whose core mechanic has been copied wholesale and beaten to market, surely there'd be some appreciation that this kind of thing does have a value.

      In any case, it's not Epic's fault this guy broke his NDA. He did that himself, if his life is ruined because of it that's a consequence of his own making.

        Surely the wholesale copying of a game and a dude leaking a minor plot point in a game that is basically plotless are not analogous?

        The internet lives and breathes on leaks and spoilers - and we're happy for this dude to get thrown under the bus that is the American litigation system because he told someone that an asteroid was going to hit one map location rather than another? How many people would we estimate did not buy the battle pass for the season based on that leak who otherwise would have? I'd say to the nearest whole number it's 0. Epic is biting the hand that feeds it.

          I don't think anyone's saying those two things are equivalent, breach of contract has a huge range of possible outcomes. Epic's submission says they're seeking relief for losses they can prove were caused by this specific breach, and the law applies standardised punitive damages on top. If Epic can't prove they lost any value from the leak, they won't get any relief damages and it'll just be punitive damages for breach of contract.

          I'm not nearly as well versed on trade secret law in the US, but I do know that since trade secrets can't be registered, protection through lawsuits is the only means available to protect them. US law defines a trade secret as any information that derives economic value by virtue of it being hidden, and where actions have reasonably been taken to keep that information hidden. It seems reasonable that Epic could make a case for both of those criteria.

            Ahhh yeah man, you definitely make a great case for why they could do all of this. I'm just not sure why they would want to? Mega corp going after a little guy? I can see why they would blacklist him from any future engagement but going after him like this seem off to me.

            Last edited 27/06/18 6:24 pm

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