Following the ruling from Judge Patricia Nieto that the California Talent Agencies Act would be binding in the case between Fortnite star Turner “Tfue” Tenney and influencer organisation FaZe, both parties are now requesting a New York court to declare a partial victory in their respective lawsuits.
The California filing from Tenney’s legal team is currently on hiatus until the New York case was resolved. The fact that Judge Nieto had ruled that the Talent Agencies Act, a state law that required FaZe to have filed for a talent agency license to provide the services they did for Tenney, doesn’t bode well for FaZe in that case. The ruling essential shoots down their counter-argument that California law did not apply as the contract agreed to abide by the laws of New York.
However, FaZe have refused to give up in regards to their filing in New York and are now arguing that there is enough evidence and precedent on the table for a summary judgment in their favour. They argue that they essentially handed Tenney his career by signing him to FaZe, “boosting” both his profile and income in the process. They pointed out that prior to his signing he hadn’t ben able to monetize his social media following, which they describe as “meager.”
They also add that any claim they violated the Talent Agencies Act should be void because any alleged procurement on Tenney’s behalf was done outside of the state of California. In addition to this they argue that the judge should find in their favour for the allegations that they breached their fiduciary duty to their client and the claim they violated California law prohibiting Tenney from finding work with their clause that would have prevented him even streaming his own gameplay for six months after he left the organisation.
FaZe also claimed that their contract provided them with an option to match any offers Tenney receives within three months and that this was never enacted.
Another argument of note is the claim from FaZe’s attorneys that Tenney was in breach of the contract himself. They claim that the player retained 100% of in-game merchandise sales despite an agreement that the share would be 50 / 50 between player and organisation. They also add that even if there were FaZe employees and representatives that stated to the contrary in public, the contents of the contract supersede any of these statements.
“Unable to seriously dispute that the plain language of the Gamer Agreement entitles FaZe Clan to receive 50% of the in-game merchandise from Epic,” the filing reads “Tenney will attempt to inject parol evidence to create confusion about this issue. Specifically, Tenney may point to social media statements, made around the time the California lawsuit, by gamers and other non-lawyers affiliated with FaZe Clan, to the effect that the Gamer Agreement did not cover in-game merchandise from Epic. Such statements are irrelevant parol evidence; they have no bearing on the Court’s interpretation of unambiguous terms in this integrated contract.”
This filing from FaZe prompted Tenney’s legal team to respond with their own request for summary judgment. They point to a potential breach of contract due to FaZe failing to pay the player his $2000 salary for several months, violating the payment in a “timely fashion” promise component of the contract. They also argue that the contract was not automatically renewed as FaZe believe as they failed to comply with New York state laws about providing written notice for the renewal.
The legal team also point to the claims that Tfue had misappropriated trade secrets from FaZe as risible, stating that none of their methods “come close to meeting the test of a trade secret.” It also points out that because the claimed trade secrets pertain to publicly released videos that “any technique that draws people to view their videos are therefore otherwise readily ascertainable.”
Finally, they dispute the claims for intentional business advantage, commercial disparagement and unjust enrichment. These claims, they say, fail to meet the legal standard due to a lack of factual evidence supporting that Tenney encouraged other players to leave FaZe or that he interfered with brand relationships. Any public statements that players shouldn’t sign with organisation’s like FaZe, as expressed by Tenney, do not meet any legal standard as they are “pure opinion,” a legal definition protected by New York Law so they can never be considered defamatory.
The preliminary date for the summary judgment has been set towards the end of March but given the amount of argumentation to consider this could be extended. If and when such a summary judgment is provided the case in California will be given a date to resume.