11 March 2019Copyright

Fortnite infringement suits dropped after SCOTUS ruling

The recent US Supreme Court ruling in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v has brought respite for the makers of the Fortnite and NBA 2K video games.

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down its decision, which said that rights owners must have registration for their work granted by the Copyright Office before they can sue for infringement.

That ruling proved to have immediate ramifications for ongoing copyright litigation, particularly the spate of copyright infringement lawsuits against Fortnite and NBA 2K makers Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive, respectively.

Several celebrities have dropped their  complaints after the Copyright Office rejected registration of their works.

The celebrities to have sued the games over the use of their signature dance moves in the games so far include ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ star Alfonso Ribeiro, and rappers 2Milly and BlocBoy JB.

None of the artists’ applications to copyright their dance moves, which are available as downloadable “emotes” for users’ in-game characters, had been granted by the Copyright Office at the time the suits were filed.

Law firm Pierce Bainbridge, which represents Ribeiro, 2Milly and BlocBoy JB, released a  statement on Friday, March 7 statingit had dropped its complaints.

“To best conform with the law as it stands in light of the Supreme Court decision, our clients will dismiss their current lawsuits and refile them”, the statement said.

The firm said that the ruling had “brought forth a major change in copyright law in much of the country”.

Last month it emerged that the Copyright Office had rejected registration for Ribeiro’s dance, which was originally performed by his character Carlton Banks in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Take-Two filed a  letter sent by the Copyright Office to Ribeiro’s lawyer as evidence in the case. In the letter, the office said it was refusing registration of the dance as it was a “simple dance routine” rather than a “choreographic work”.

Pierce Bainbridge’s statement added that the firm would “continue to vigorously fight for our clients' rights against those who wrongly take their creations without permission and without compensation”.

Some of the artists suing the video games makers, including social media personality ‘The Backpack Kid’, successfully gained registration for their dance move since the suits were filed.

According to last week’s SCOTUS ruling, complaints over dance moves that have been registered by the Copyright Office could now be re-filed.

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More on this story

14 February 2019   Epic Games, creator of popular video game Fortnite, has hit back at claims that it stole rapper 2 Milly’s signature ‘Milly Rock’ dance, arguing that “no one can own a dance move”.
4 March 2019   The US Supreme Court has ruled that copyright infringement suits cannot be filed until after the US Copyright Office has granted registration of the work at issue.