Is Game Theory stealing information about stealing? Popular online game Fortnite has a series of dances in their game a player can use. After you defeat a tough opponent, you may use your favorite dance animation to celebrate. Some claim to have ownership over some of the dances and have been attempting to sue Epic Games for royalties and money Fortnite made off their dances. YouTubers have taken to dissecting the situation to see if filing suit is a valid option. Two of those being James from Legal Eagle and Matthew Patrick from Game Theory. But now, Legal Eagle is claiming Game Theory stole his content.
Legal Eagle Uploads
On December 22, 2018, Legal Eagle uploaded a video called, “Carlton v. Fortnite - Copyright Dance-Off! (Real Law Review)” The video features James, who is a real lawyer, sitting down for 13 minutes talking about the Fortnite suits and dances in copyright law with clips of the dances, images, and text. The video garnered 314k views as of writing this. Legal Eagle has 270k subscribers.
Game Theory Uploads
On December 30th, 2018 Game Theory uploaded a video titled, “Game Theory: Fortnite is Stealing...AGAIN!?! (The Fortnite Dance Controversy)” The video features the voice of Matthew Patrick talking about the suits, copyright law and the such. Also making lots of jokes, animated skits, clips, and images. The video goes on for 15 minutes. The video garnered over 3 million views as of writing this. Game Theory has 11 million subscribers.
Legal Eagle Claims Theft
On January 5th, 2019 Legal Eagle uploaded a video titiled, “LegalEagle v. GameTheorists - Did MatPat Plagiarise My Fortnite Analysis? (Real Law Review)”. In the video, James claimed that MatPat copied his research and did not credit him. He begins the video with a clip from MatPat’s video and states in a sarcastic voice, “Wow! His analysis is so good, it’s like it comes from a real lawyer!”. The video features James talking about and showing clips from both Mat’s video and his own and comparing them. The video is sponsored by Dashlane. “Because the MatPat’s of the world are out there and they want to take your stuff.”
Not long after on the same day, Matthew responds by a comment on Legal Eagle’s video. This is what he said,
Matt states that his team started research on November 21st with the first draft being completed three weeks later on December 12. Matt points out that when he said “other videos analyzing this case” he meant the mainstream media. He then goes on to say that the reason their information came from a real lawyer, is because they brought on consulting lawyers. He also points out the fact that he’s done other Fortnite videos featuring law since June 2017.
“We’re both stating FACTS about the law.” Matt states in his rebuttal. It is true that facts can not be copyrighted. Copyright.gov states “Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation,” Does that mean this is case-closed? Wrong. The site goes on to say, “...although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”.
What works are protected? The US Copyright Office lists examples of what works are protected. Via Circular 1: Copyright Basics
• Literary works
• Musical works, including any accompanying words
• Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
• Pantomimes and choreographic works
• Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
• Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
• Sound recordings, which are works that result from the
fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds
• Architectural works
LegalEagle could claim two things: His video was stolen or his research was stolen. He could copyright his video under “Motion pictures and other audiovisual works.” However, Matthew Patrick featured no part of Jame’s video in his own. There is no significant evidence of copyright infringement in this form. But there is still the possibility that Jame’s research may be copyrighted. Let’s look into it.
Circular 33: Works Not Protected lists things that can not be copyrighted and goes into depth. The list includes.
• Ideas, methods, and systems
• Names, titles, and short phrases
• Typeface, fonts, and lettering
• Blank forms
• Familiar symbols and designs
The research best fits into the first category: Ideas, methods, and systems. That section says,
Copyright law expressly excludes copyright protection for
“any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation,
concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in
which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied.”
The section goes on to say that some can indeed be copyrighted, “provided that
the work contains a sufficient amount of original authorship.” Does Legal Eagle’s video contain sufficient amount of original authorship? I feel that should be left up to a lawyer to define “sufficient”, that is not involved in the issue. However, personally, I do not feel so as it is mostly facts that are stated. For the purpose of this article let’s say it does not. Circular 33 also states,
However, copyright protection will extend only to the original
expression in that work and not to the underlying idea,
methods or systems described or explained.
With that being said, it seems to me that the US government owns the original ideas of the law. That would mean, no one talking about the law, could copyright their work assuming it does not provide sufficient original content. So this makes it more likely that MatPat could copyright his video and not LegalEagle. Why? Matthew’s video features a lot of original content. There is a skit at the beginning and a lot of animations and commentary. I feel like a lawyer would be more likely to give Matthew copyright protection before LegalEagle. However, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.
LegalEagle knows all of this. In the description of his video about GameTheory he says, “So it's not copyright infringement (I don't own the ideas behind the analysis), just a jerk move.” Even if James could prove that Matthew did take his research, being a “jerk” is something that happens. Someone could say some means things to me or be passive aggressive in another article about mine. But that does not justify defamation. Though defamation law varies by state, making it a pain to go into. LegalEagle can be seen as causing defamation in some places. But so is a lot of YouTubers and their drama videos.
Some have been pointing out times situations like this have happened before. Especially mentioning a situation Vsauce was in.
There was an instance a while back where Vsauce3 had a video about a nearly identical topic as 2 other channels. They all spoke and it was pure coincidence even though they all released within a week. Things covered in media get multiple channels posting about it. Grow up.
— Connor D (@ConnorD0428) January 6, 2019
Again, I am not a lawyer and cannot give advice on the law.