Like a blast from the distant past of 2018, Epic Games is being sued over a Fortnite emote. This time it’s the “It’s complicatedemote, which plaintiff Kyle Hanagami says is an unauthorized copy of the dance he choreographed for Charlie Puth’s song How Long in 2017.
Epic faced multiple lawsuits over Fortnite emotes in 2018-19, brought by 2 Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Orange Shirt Kid’s mother, among others. In general, they claimed that Epic ripped off distinctive dance moves for use in Fortnite without crediting or paying the people who actually created them. This new lawsuit says that the “social media outcry” fueled by those previous actions helped pressure Epic to make licensing deals with some, but not all, creators, and that Hanagami was not made an offer for the game. use of your work.
“Epic generally approaches younger and/or less sophisticated artists, such as those catapulted to fame on social media platforms like TikTok, to license choreography for pennies on the dollar,” the lawsuit says. Hanagami, a sophisticated businessman and established choreographer who is aware of the value of his choreography in general and copyrighted choreography in particular, was never approached by Epic for a license.
Fortnite emote lawsuits came to a sudden halt in 2019 due to a US Supreme Court decision that changed how copyright lawsuits could be filed. Previously, action could be taken as soon as a copyright application was registered, but the 2019 ruling stated that lawsuits could only be filed after the Copyright Office had approved or rejected an application, a process that sometimes Sometimes it could take several months.
Attorney David Hecht, who is representing Hanagami in the lawsuit, said that’s what makes this case different from previous emote lawsuits: The choreography is copyrighted and that makes it enforceable.
“Epic is benefiting from my client’s hard work, and their violation could not be more flagrant,” Hecht said in an email to PC Gamer. “Epic’s sale of Kyle’s proprietary choreography as an item in the Fortnite Item Shop without his knowledge or authorization is fundamentally unfair. He felt compelled to file a lawsuit to defend the many choreographers whose work is similarly misappropriated. Copyright law protects choreography just as it does other forms of artistic expression. Epic should respect that fact and pay to license the artwork of others before selling it.”
Hecht, who represented 2 Milly in her 2018 lawsuit against Epic over the Swipe It emote, also created a video showing the similarities between How Long and the It’s Complicated emote.
There’s no denying they’re virtually identical, but that doesn’t make the case a lock. The It’s Complicated emote only features a small part of the How Long choreography, for one thing, and also includes moves that aren’t part of the Hanagami dance. And according to a 2021 report from dance magazinechoreography copyright is inherently difficult to enforce because there is so little precedent.
“I think what we’re really missing is the amount of litigation required to fully understand what the elements of copyright infringement are for choreography,” attorney Gregory Desantis told the site. “There just aren’t many cases to base litigation on. In court, lawyers will base a lot of their arguments on the results of previous cases. Because dance has so few copyright cases, it’s hard to take courts”.
Hanagami is seeking an injunction against the use of her work in Fortnite, as well as damages and legal costs. I have reached out to Epic for comment and will update if I hear back.