​Could PUBG Actually Win Their Copyright Lawsuit Against 'Fortnite'?

PUBG Corporation and Epic games have been locked into a legal battle for some time, after the former filed a copyright complaint against their Fortnite Battle Royal rival.

It's nothing new, as it happened at the end of May this year, and it's certainly not the first time PUBG have done something similar.

via GIPHY

They're also currently in the courts with the same complaint but against company Net Ease, who made the Rules of Survival and Knives Battle Royale games.

All games look very similar, with the mobile releases from Net Ease almost looking like some sort of sequel for PUBG. The whole format of the games is also the same, with 100 people dropping out of a plane in an army-like setting, a very similar weapons system, and a shrinking map which injures upon contact.

It looks as if they are going to win this case, but what about the one against Fortnite?

First of all, we need to look at the boring stuff. Usually, PUBG could only win if the court deems that their Abstraction Filtration Comparison Test proves that Epic Games broke a copyright law.

For this to happen, the court will look at what is copied and what can't be helped but put into a Battle Royale game. They throw out stuff like weapons and having someone be crowned winner, as this has to be in this type of game. This would be great for Fortnite, as it looks and plays completely different, with the building option as an example, so there's no way that claim would come through.

But this is where it gets interesting. The AFC Test is something which takes place within a US court and if this case did, then Epic Games would more than likely get off scot-free. The lawsuit which PUBG made will enter a South Korean court, however, which just flips everything on its head.

Credit: Epic Games
Credit: Epic Games

South Korea have been super slow in creating basic copyright laws, pretty much 150 years later than the US, so the way they go about copyright is very different to other places. They, like the US, believe expressions are copyrightable but ideas aren't, which is good news for Fortnite, but they also believe an author's moral rights allows them to claim paternity rights in order to preserve the integrity of their product - this is bad news, if you couldn't tell.

Through this court, it could be deemed that although PUBG didn't create the Battle Royale genre they did act as the father to the 100-player system, with loot drops, a pre-game play lobby, and falling out of the sky, to name a few, all being in the same game, which means Epic Games could have based their game off it.

If this is seen as credible, then PUBG can express their paternal rights over Fortnite, as it's an unauthorised alteration of their format. The ideologies in South Korea rely heavily on the family system, with the paternal figure seen as something important in their heritage and laws, so the court might be swayed against Epic Games from the get-go.

Credit: Epic Games
Credit: Epic Games

If PUBG win, then one of the consequences for their rivals would mean they have to pull their game out of the Korean market. This might not seem so bad, as it could be a lot worse, but seeing as South Korea is basically the home of eSports it could provide problems when trying to push Fortnite into the competitive gaming world. They recently announced that they would be pushing $100 million into this area!

It's going to be one of the biggest cases of the year, in terms of copyright infringements, and could lay the groundwork for the future of gaming copyright and what happens when claims are taken to court.

Featured Image Credit: PUBG

Mischa Pearlman

Mischa is a freelance journalist usually based in either New York or London. He has written for Kerrang!, Record Collector, NME, the New York Observer and FLOOD magazine, among others. Contact him at [email protected]

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