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Epic legal threat silences prolific Fortnite leaker

UPDATE: Epic says leaker was advertising modification tools.

UPDATE 15/12/18: Epic has now released an official statement to clarify why it sent a cease and desist letter to the owner of Fortnite leak outlet FNBRLeaks.

According to a spokesperson from Epic, the reason for the legal letter was to prevent FNBRLeaks from distributing unauthorised modification tools for the game.

"The owner of this account and others promoted and advertised the sale of game modification tools which violate our terms of service," the statement reads. "This is not directly related to data mining or leaking."

Breaking the Yules.

The first two demands in the cease and desist letter do seem to focus on legal issues relating to modding, including "circumventing security measures Epic has put in place to prevent access to copyright-protected code" and the subsequent distribution of this technology.

While Epic claims data mining and leaking were not directly related to the request, it seems to have been involved to some extent, as it is specifically named in the cease and desist letter as one of six demands. Here's the sentence in full:

"(v) misappropriating Epic's confidential and proprietary information, which includes, without limitation, the unauthorised acquisition, disclosure and/or use, eg. data mining by unauthorised means and 'leaking' prior to its intended release, of such information."

Sure enough, while FNBRLeaks has now deleted its Twitter account, a tweet saved by Google shows that FNBRLeaks was indeed sharing some form of modification tool with followers. Whether FNBRLeaks was using these mods for data mining purposes is unknown - but it would certainly fit Epic's description of "data mining by unauthorised means".

FNBRLeaks' Instagram account, meanwhile, has been allowed to stay up on the condition it does not post leaks.

Eurogamer has since removed the image of the cease and desist letter at the request of the owner of FNBRLeaks.

ORIGINAL STORY 14/12/18: Christmas is almost upon us, and with it the cheer of the season - but apparently someone didn't get the memo, as one of the biggest Fortnite leakers has suddenly shut down following a legal threat from Epic. Bah humbug.

Last night FNBRLeaks posted a statement on TwitLonger claiming it had been told to close its social media accounts after being contacted by the company. "Due to the request of an Epic Games Attorney who I'm not going to disclose, my Twitter, Discord, YouTube, Instagram and Github must be deleted, or else they will take action," site owner Preston wrote. "Thank you all for the support and followers over my seven month span of the FNBRLeaks Twitter."

Christmastime, mistletoe and fines.

FNBRLeaks staff member Scenario posted an image on Discord which appears to be the cease-and-desist letter Preston received. The letter argues Preston "spoiled the game for millions of of people who play and/or watch Fortnite, and negatively impact[ed] those who work hard to create and update Fortnite. The fact that he is a teenager makes this no less true".

The cease-and-desist claims Preston misappropriated confidential information, violated the Copyright Act, and broke the "terms of his agreements with Epic". It also demands Preston delete his social media accounts and remove "any unauthorised Epic-related content".

At the time of writing, the site appears to have shut its Twitter account and Discord server, although its Instagram page is still viewable.

Those of you familiar with the Fortnite leaking scene will know FNBRLeaks as the go-to place for early insights on the game. The site, which is still live, posts leaks obtained from datamining the files added in each Fortnite patch - things such as upcoming items and skins. Four months ago it claimed to have found an all-new way to discover items in Fortnite's shop - something which allowed it to regularly post skins before their official release. At the time of closure, FNBRLeaks had 243,000 followers on Twitter, making it one of the most well-known Fortnite leak outlets on the web.

This appears to be the strongest action taken yet by Epic to discourage Fortnite players from leaking game content. Back in August, FNBRLeaks and other dataminers reported that their Fortnite accounts were banned due to "fraud" and "misconduct", but this did not stop the leakers from continuing to datamine information. By going after FNBRLeaks' social media accounts, Epic is probably hoping to limit the circulation of the leaked information, and warn others away from posting datamined content.

On a personal level, it seems a shame FNBRLeaks was forced to shut: if anything, the account hyped me up for further Fortnite developments, and the tweets themselves were incredibly wholesome. I guess that, like Leaky Lake, all good things must come to an end.