The copyright battle between Fortnite’s developer, Epic Games, and various artists claiming ownership over dance moves featured in the game, has resurfaced once again. The contentious issue has sparked debates surrounding intellectual property rights in the digital age, as well as the boundaries of creativity and ownership in the world of video games.
Since its release in 2017, Fortnite has gained massive popularity worldwide, with millions of players logging in daily to participate in its battle royale gameplay. One of the game’s standout features is the ability for players to purchase dance emotes, which allow their characters to perform unique and often viral dance moves during gameplay. These dance emotes have become iconic, with many of them spreading beyond the game’s community and becoming mainstream cultural phenomena.
However, what was once considered a harmless inclusion in the game has evolved into a legal controversy. Several artists, including celebrities and notable internet personalities, have come forward claiming that Epic Games had stolen their dance moves and profited from their creativity without permission or compensation. The lawsuit alleges that the developer violated their rights by using the dances without proper attribution or authorization, an issue that delves deep into copyright law.
One of the most high-profile cases is that of rapper 2 Milly, who claims that Fortnite’s “Swipe It” emote is a direct replica of his “Milly Rock” dance. Similar claims were made by actor Alfonso Ribeiro regarding the famous Carlton dance from the television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and by the iconic “Backpack Kid” for his signature dance known as the “Floss.”
On the surface, these claims may seem reasonable – after all, it is their artistic expression being enjoyed by millions of players around the world. However, copyright law, particularly regarding dance moves, is tricky and often hard to enforce. Copyright generally protects creative works, such as music, paintings, and literature, but it doesn’t specifically extend to dance moves. Choreographic works or routines can be copyrighted if they meet specific criteria, such as being more than a simple sequence of steps.
For the legal claims against Epic Games to hold up, it would need to be proven that these dance emotes are substantial enough to be considered choreographic works and not just a collection of individual steps. Additionally, it would have to be demonstrated that the creators of these dance moves had not given implied consent for their inclusion in Fortnite, as many of them went viral on social media platforms long before the game’s release.
Nevertheless, these lawsuits highlight an ongoing debate about the ownership of movements in the digital space. Online platforms have become breeding grounds for creativity, where content creators share their work and often influence popular culture. While copyright law struggles to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology, it remains crucial to strike a balance between protecting the rights of creators and encouraging innovation and creativity in digital spaces.
The outcome of these legal battles will have significant implications for both the gaming industry and content creators. If courts were to rule in favor of the artists, it could set a precedent for similar lawsuits in the future, potentially jeopardizing the way game developers incorporate popular culture references.
Ultimately, the copyright fight over Fortnite dance moves represents a clash between the rapidly evolving digital landscape and traditional intellectual property laws. As technology continues to advance, legal frameworks must adapt accordingly to safeguard both the rights of artists and the creative freedom that shapes our ever-changing popular culture.