7 December 2018Copyright

Rapper sues Fortnite creator for ‘exploiting’ dance move

New York rapper Milly Rock has filed a copyright lawsuit against the creator of popular video game “Fortnite”, claiming it uses his self-named dance move without his permission.

In the complaint, filed on Wednesday, December 5, at the US District Court for the Central District of California, Milly Rock (full name Terrence Ferguson) claimed “Fortnite” creator Epic Games exploits the dance move he created by copying it for one if its “emotes”.

Emotes are upgrades that players can buy to personalise their online avatars. According to the document, “Fortnite” is free to play and its sales come exclusively from these in-game purchases.

In 2014, Milly Rock released self-titled song “Milly Rock”, with an accompanying video which showed him performing the dance. The song entered the iTunes Top 200 in its first week and the video now has nearly 18 million views on YouTube.

The filing claimed that Epic regularly creates emotes by copying dance moves directly from popular videos, films and television programmes without seeking prior consent.

The rapper alleged that Epic “has unfairly profited from its intentional unauthorised misappropriation” of his dance craze, citing the video game’s record breaking revenues in the last year.

Since its release in September 2017, “Fortnite” has become one of the most popular video games across the world, with sales in excess of $1 billion. The filing also said that “Fortnite” made $318 million in May 2018 alone, the biggest-ever month for a video game.

According to the lawsuit, Epic capitalised on the dance move’s popularity and the rapper’s “protected creative expression” by selling the dance as an in-game purchase under the name “Swipe It”. Players of the game and media worldwide recognised it immediately as the Milly Rock dance, the lawsuit stated, adding that Epic did not credit the rapper for the move or seek his consent.

Additionally, the rapper claimed the game has “consistently sought to exploit African-American talent” by copying their dances and movements. The filing gave examples of rapper Snoop Dogg’s dance move from his song “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and Alfonso Ribeiro’s performance of the ‘Carlton Dance’ for television programme “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.

Milly Rock said that Epic “will continue adding popular emotes to Fortnite without the artist’s consent or approval”. He said the company uses the Milly Rock dance and other moves “to create a false impression that Epic started these dances and crazes”, and as a result, players post videos of themselves performing the “Swipe It” emote with the hashtag #fortnitedance.

The rapper claimed that Epic intentionally developed the “Swipe It” emote to mimic his move and that players had previously asked for the move by name in various online forums relating to “Fortnite”.

The rapper is seeking damages and to stop Epic from using the dance move. Milly Rock claimed that he continues to use the dance move commercially and that other artists have sought and been granted licences from him to perform the dance.

On Tuesday, December 4, the day before the lawsuit was filed, the rapper applied for copyright registration of the dance. He claimed that the dance move is distinctive and immediately recognisable and has become “synonymous with Milly Rock and a part of his identity”.

US copyright law states that “individual movements or dance steps by themselves are not copyrightable … even if a even if a routine is novel or distinctive”.

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Rapper sues Fortnite creator for ‘exploiting’ dance move

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More on this story

4 January 2018   Epic Games has won an IP infringement case against Russia-based individual Artem Yakovenko. Epic alleged that Yakovenko developed, advertised, used and distributed a software cheat for its multi-player survival video game, “Fortnite”.
19 December 2018   Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks in the NBC sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, is suing two video game companies for allegedly infringing his copyright and likeness.
24 January 2019   A US rapper is the latest to file a copyright lawsuit against the creator of a popular video game “Fortnite”, claiming it uses a dance move he created, without his permission.