Fortnite Epic Games creator faces another lawsuit for copying dance emotes without permission. Two former basketball players from the University of Maryland sued the company for his "Running Man" Fortnite emote, who would have copied a dance they popularized in 2016. Their complaint accuses Epic of violating the publicity rights of players – arguing that the publisher had "constantly sought to exploit the African-American talent, especially Fortnite, by copying their dances and their movements. "
Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens say that they created the "distinctive and instantly recognizable" dance behind the "Running Man Challenge," a viral phenomenon that invited Brantley and Nickens to The Ellen Degeneres show for a performance. Last year, Epic launched an extremely similar program Fortnite emote called "Running Man". Brantley and Nickens say that dance is "synonymous" to them and that Epic should not be able to copy it without permission or compensation.
Epic already faces at least five other lawsuits in the area of "Fortnite" dance
This is a common complaint: Epic is already facing lawsuits Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro, rappers 2 Milly and BlocBoy JB, and viral stars "Orange Shirt Kid" and Russell "Children's Backpack" Horning. It is also a largely untested and controversialbecause dance movements can only be protected by copyright if they are sufficiently complex. And even though dance may be protected by copyright, we do not always know who owns these rights – the US Copyright Office suggested that the Ribeiro dance could belong to a network, for example.
The property may be a problem here because Brantley and Nickens have not launched the Running Man Challenge. It was apparently started by two high school students named Kevin Vincent and Jerry Hall, also appeared on The Ellen Degeneres show. And fader trace the dance returns to the culture of the New Jersey club. Sports Illustrated made credit The basketball players popularized the challenge, but Brantley himself described being inspired by a previous video:
"Jared [Nickens] came to me and was like, hey, let me show you something. A Jersey kid whom he knew was making this song dance. We were like we made a funny video and tried to make people laugh. "
The law firm representing Brantley and Nickens did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting a comment on the lawsuit, and Epic Games either.
Regardless of who owns the dance, the complaint that Epic exploits the work of black artists may still exist – and these two the first people to raise him. In addition to the Running Man dances, 2 Milly's and BlocBoy JB, and Ribeiro's "Carlton dance," Epic has appropriated movements by Snoop Dogg, Will Smith, social media star Marlon Webb and actor Donald Faison. . (Although Epic is far from exclusively black artists, because the dance of "Gangnam Style" of the Korean rapper Psy is also a Fortnite emote, for example.)
The trial rightly notes that Fortnite may end up divorcing these dance moves from their cultural context, players posting "thousands of videos [of] running themselves the running man emote with the hashtag #fortnitedance, without referring to the Running Man. But we do not know if this is a violation of copyright. And this particular trial could raise fundamental questions about the "owner" of a dance movement – a kind of artistic expression often created and remixed throughout a community.