Epic Games has filed a lawsuit against a former Keywords Studios employee, alleging a violation of contract after a photo of an unreleased Fortnite Chapter 2 gameplay environment was leaked. The image was traced back to the employee, who has been named as Lucas Johnston. Johnston previously worked for Keywords Studios as a game tester.
The screenshot was reportedly taken on August 30th, 2019, while Johnston was playtesting the game's new map at Keywords Studios in Montreal, Canada. The company’s internal investigation allegedly found security camera footage of Johnston taking the image. On September 12th, the image was published on an online competitive Fortnite forum under the username “chaad4.” The account that posted the photo reportedly had three friends in common with Johnston’s own account, “FloocasJ.” Johnston was fired from Keywords Studios on September 13th, the day after the image was posted online. The screenshot was published more than a month before Epic’s planned release date of October 15th.
Johnston has reportedly admitted to taking the screenshot, but maintains that he played no part in its leak. He did admit to emailing the image to himself, though the investigation concluded that he also shared the photo with his friends. Epic Games is reportedly seeking damages that could potentially exceed $85,000 for Johnston’s violation of a non-disclosure agreement. The lawsuit claims that the image’s publication “deprived the claimant of the element of surprise.”
“As the creative projects created by the claimant require a long period of time between the start of their conception and their commercialisation,” says Epic Games’ court filing, “confidentiality is thus, throughout the process, essential in order to offer its users innovative projects at the forefront of the video game technology industry.”
Epic Games has sought legal action against leakers in the past, as they filed a lawsuit against former Fortnite tester Ronald Sykes in October for similar reasons. Epic sought damages for Sykes’s violation of a non-disclosure agreement when he revealed classified information about Fortnite Chapter 2 on Twitter. Epic also filed a lawsuit against former employee Thomas Hannah in May of this year, alleging that the quality assurance contractor had violated his own non-disclosure agreement. Hannah had revealed information about Fortnite’s third and fourth seasons to third parties, who then shared the information on Reddit.