Epic Games is facing another lawsuit for allegedly lifting a dance move from a professional choreographer to use as a Fortnite emote.
Kyle Hanagami claims It’s Complicated – an emote added to Fortnite in 2020 – uses copyrighted dance moves he performed in a 2017 routine to accompany Charlie Puth’s pop song How Long.
As reported by NBC (opens in a new tab)the lawsuit claims that Epic “did not credit Hanagami or seek her consent to use, display, reproduce, sell, or create a derivative work based on the recorded choreography.”
He alleges that Epic wrongfully profited from the choreographer’s work by selling the emote as an in-game purchase, is asking the emote to stop appearing in Fortnite, and is seeking compensatory damages.
Hanagami’s attorneys uploaded a video to YouTube comparing her dance moves to the Fortnite emote side by side. You can watch the video below and see for yourself how well the emote matches the full body routine.
Hanagami is not a small choreographer either. He has already worked with megastars like Britney Spears, Justin Beiber, BlackPink and NSYNC.
Could Epic lose?
This isn’t the first time Epic has been sued for allegedly lifting other people’s dance moves without proper credit or compensation.
In 2018, Russell Horning, also known as The Backpack Kid, sued Epic for using the Floss dance in an emote; actor Alfonso Ribeiro sued the publisher for an emote that mimicked the famous Carlton dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and rapper 2 Milly sued the company for allegedly copying his Milly Rock move.
All three cases were later dropped, with Epic claiming that none of the plaintiffs owned the copyright to the dances. The United States Supreme Court accepted (opens in a new tab) that they had to own the official copyright before suing Epic for infringement.
Hanagami’s case, however, is more complicated. The pro choreographer says he owns the copyright to the move, putting Epic on the back foot.
Although this may give more weight to his claim, it does not guarantee that the courts will agree. Like the edge (opens in a new tab) pointed out during the 2 Milly lawsuit, Epic previously argued that “no one can own a dance step” because “individual dance steps and single dance routines are not copyrighted, but are rather constituent elements of free expression”.
However, it might be difficult to apply this argument to Hanagami’s routine, which seems more complex than a simple dance step and closer to a full routine.
Talk to Kotaku (opens in a new tab)Hanagami’s attorney said, “[Hanagami] felt compelled to file a complaint to defend the many choreographers whose work is also misappropriated.
“Copyright law protects choreography as it does other forms of artistic expression. Epic should respect this fact and pay to authorize the artistic creations of others before selling them.