After the removal of Call of Duty maps from Fortnite Creative 2.0 upset several fans in March, Epic Games’ Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) has now landed in the crosshairs of many players for its vague intellectual property (IP) usage rules—and this time, SpongeBob SquarePants is causing the confusion.
A top Fortnite creator and UEFN developer named Bonnie Kiwi has shed light on Epic’s inconsistent policy, which is allowing certain copyright-infringing maps to flourish, while explicitly stating that violating IP rights isn’t allowed.
Kiwi’s concerns come from the fact that a Creative map named SpongeBob Prop Hunt has been trending in Fortnite for over a week now.
Despite having a trademarked name—the Paramount-owned SpongeBob SquarePants—in its title, Epic approved the map to be published and monetized, which seems to be a complete violation of the updated Terms of Services laid out by the company in March.
Kiwi pleads with Epic to be consistent, with several creators echoing his request in the replies.
Kiwi also highlighted the presence of numerous Spider-Man-themed maps in Fortnite Creative and UEFN and questioned whether the rules don’t apply to IPs that are already present in Fortnite.
Back in March, Activision issued DMCA notices against Fortnite UEFN creators, forcing the removal of several Creative 2.0 maps which contained elements from the Call of Duty franchise.
Following this heated situation, Epic updated its policies for UEFN and reminded players of the consequences of infringing IP rights, including permanent account bans.
Despite Epic’s seemingly hardline stance on copyright infringement, several Creative maps continue to use IPs without facing any consequences. We don’t know if the creators acquired the necessary permissions, but it seems unlikely given the sheer number of maps there are.
Epic’s policy for IPs states the following: “Using anyone’s intellectual property without their permission is a violation of Epic’s rules, including the Fortnite EULA and of our Fortnite Island Creator Rules. Those rules make it clear that you are not permitted to create, publish, or monetize content based on others’ copyrighted IP.”
Many players pointed out that Epic possibly only removes maps if it receives legal notices. “To threaten account banning and then just let IP slip on through all the time anyway? Seems like a massive headache for the legal department,” Kiwi replied.
Considering the severe punishment associated with publishing inspired content on Fortnite Creative 2.0, it’s only fair that Epic updates its policies to clearly state what’s allowed and what isn’t. Dot Esports reached out to Epic for comment and received an answer that doesn’t shed any light on the situation. “Epic is committed to helping people and organizations protect their IP rights,” it replied, along with a link to its IP rules from March 8.
Updated June 6 2023, 04:24am CT: Added the response from Epic Games.