24 January 2019Copyright

US rapper sues Fortnite creator over dance move

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.

Blocboy JB, whose real name is James Baker, filed the complaint at the US District Court for the Central District of California yesterday, January 23. He alleged “Fortnite” creator Epic Games “unfairly profited” from “exploiting his creative expression and likeness” by copying his dance move for one of 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.

The complaint alleged that Epic sold an emote containing Blockboy JB’s dance moves as seen in the video for his song “Shoot”, simply renaming the dance to “Hype”.

On December 20, Blocboy JB tweeted fans asking them: “Should I sue Fortnite or nah (sic)”. The filing comes after receiving widespread encouragement from his fans to take legal action against the video game creators.

In his complaint to the court, Blocboy JB said Epic’s use of his dance routine “has caused confusion about the origin of the dance” and alleged violation of federal copyright and trademark law, unfair competition and wrongful use of a person’s public image.

Blocboy said the dance move has become “inextricably” linked to the rapper and part of his celebrity persona, ever since he released “Shoot” in July 2017. The release was accompanied by a music video of the rapper performing the dance.

By January this year, the video had accumulated 30 million views on YouTube, the complaint said.

The dance move also appears in the music video for the song “Look Alive” by Blocboy JB and Drake. Blocboy JB said he is currently in the process of registering copyright for the music video.

The complaint said that the dance move has since become an internet phenomenon, with social media users taking part in the “Shoot dance challenge” and filming themselves performing the dance move.

The filing alleged that Epic creates “emotes” by “copying and coding” popular dance moves without consent. It said the video game creator has “consistently sought to exploit African-American talent in particular by copying their dances and movement”.

The rapper is seeking an injunction against Epic to stop using or selling his dance move in Fortnite, as well as profits made from the sale of the “Hype” emote.

Blocboy JB is the latest celebrity to take action against Epic for its Fortnite emotes.

Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who plays Carlton Banks in television programme “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, rapper 2 Milly, and popular Instagram user Russel Horning, known as “The Backpack Kid”, have all taken legal action against Epic, all alleging unlawful use of their dance moves.

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More on this story

7 December 2018   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.
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.