Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Wait, this isn't an award winning 4th and Goal post? You're right! I have other interests as well. It's called being a Renaissance Man; look it up. In my free time when I am not consuming everything NFL, I sit down in my comfortable chair in my basement and spark up the ole Xbox One to unwind with the greatest game to ever grace our presence, Fortnite.
Fortnite has became the single most popular game in recent years tallying up over 200 million players. For those who don't know what Fortnite is, I am here to explain. First, have you been living under a rock for the past year and a half?? Second, it is a free game that is basically the Hunger Games where 100 players jump out of a floating bus(the battle bus) and are placed on an island. They have to defeat the other 99 competitors using different weapons and building techniques using wood, brick, or steel. It is unlike anything we have seen in years past.
It has brought the world of Esports into mainstream world thanks to streamers like Ninja, Muselk, and Daequon. These three streamers are just a few of the many streamers who have made the game not only a joy to play, but just as exciting to watch similar to one of the 4 major sports we watch on TV.
One aspect of the game is emotes. Emotes are specific dance moves that a player can do throughout the game. Some are built into the game, while others you either unlock or have to purchase through the in-game store. These emotes range from simple actions to full out dance routines made popular through pop culture icons and viral videos.
One problem with these emotes is that Epic Games, the creator of the game, did not request permission to use the dance moves in the game. It has became so much of a problem, that they are being sued by three people who's emotes have became a staple in the game.
At Quinnipiac, I took a class called Media Law that deals with the issues Fortnite and Epic Games have been sued for. It's time for me to put my education to the test and figure out who is the winner of these cases. Before I go into the details, I want to give a quick shout out to Kearston Wesner, the professor of this class. It's time to put my A- in the class(not a big deal) and use it to my knowledge about my favorite game.
Who is suing?
The first lawsuit comes from Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Alfonso Ribeiro. Everyone knows him from his famous dance, The Carlton. A signature dance of his character throughout his show. When "It's not unusual," by Tom Jones hits, Carlton breaks out into the dance. Fortnite took this dance and placed it into the game around their second season. Ribeiro said that the game is improperly profiting off him. The dance is not Ribeiro's; it's his character's dance from the show. This plays a crucial role in the case.
On deck, we have the backpack kid. Russell Horning, backpack kid, brought a lawsuit to Epic Games for his dance move "The Floss." Horning did this dance during a performance on SNL with Katy Perry. It blew up the internet causing those 12-82 attempting the dance. A unique dance Fortnite thought would be perfect for their second season. Horning's mom brought the lawsuit to Epic because of infringement on intellectual property. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the dance, take a look at this video below
It took me awhile to be able to do the move. It took Fortnite no time to take the move from Horning's backpack and put it in the game.
The last lawsuit comes from 2 Milly, the creator of the milly rock. I milly rock on every block, street, avenue find myself on. This has became my go to dance move at any party, but lucky for me I'm not making money of it. Fortnite put this move in their fifth season calling it, "swipe it." Fortnite swiped it from 2 Milly causing him to bring legal action towards the company. He claims it is misappropriation and infringement on his dance move. He said he was never compensated for the move and wants justice to be served. The move(seen below) involved both arms swinging back and forth. Not as complex as "The Carlton," but recognizable enough for people to know Epic did not think of this dance on their own.
What is the outcome?
So, you know the dance moves. You know Epic took the moves and profited on the greatly, but who is winning these cases?
Copyright protects your right to creative material. It covers video, film, audio, and choreography. Also, a work needs to be done in reproduced, distributed, displayed, and performed in the public eye. The moves need to have a similarity to them as well. If the work checks those boxes, it becomes infringement. With these regulations, Fortnite and Epic games does not look good.
For Fortnite to get the Victory Royale in these cases, they need to prove that these moves were a transformative application to the dances. They need to prove why they are using the dances, what impact it has made on them financially, what is the nature of the work, and how much they have been using the dance moves. With the game having over 200 million players, these emotes have been used quite a lot. They could attempt a claim at parody, but the dances are so similar, they might have a tough time winning that argument.
At the end of the day, someone's creative work was stolen and benefitted by another company for profit. It is a joy seeing cultural dances I use to bring life to the party in one of my favorite games. It is fun to use them in the game bringing pop culture and the gaming world together. So I beg Epic to just pay them. Settle this case outside of the court room so we can continue to use these emotes. They want the emotes taken out of the game if Epic does not comply. These emotes have only made their dance moves more popular in the public eye.
Settle the cases so we can get out of the courtroom, and back on the battle bus.
UPDATE: ALL THREE SUITS DENIED BY U.S COPYRIGHT OFFICE
Well I didn't expect this. Fortnite caught a massive break thanks to the copyright commission. According to the office, they said that the dance moves did not qualify as "choreography" due to it being one move. Sure. Ok. Whatever. I do not agree with the ruling. A simple dance move should fall under the category of choreography. It does not have to be a full routine to be known as a famous dance move. I feel for Alfonso Ribeiro. He should be getting paid from this. His "Carlton Dance" is a legitimate dance routine. Shame on Fortnite and shame on the U.S Copyright Office.