Epic Games sued by choreographer for allegedly using copyrighted dance moves in Fortnite

midian182

Posts: 7,902   +82
Staff member
WTF?! In late 2018 and early 2019, so many people tried to sue Epic Games over claims it stole their dance moves and used them in Fortnite that it looked like a trend. None succeeded, but a new suit has been launched by a choreographer who has an advantage that the previous plaintiffs didn't: he owns the copyright to the dance in question.

Kotaku reports that the person suing Epic this time is Kyle Hanagami, a professional choreographer. He's worked with several massive names, including Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and NSYNC. He also created dances for Netflix's animated movie Over the Moon.

The dance that Hanagami says copies his own is Fortnite's It's Complicated emote. It was introduced in August 2020, while the dance he says it replicates—one he choreographed set to Charlie Puth's "How Long"—was posted in 2017. You can see a side-by-side comparison (below) posted by Hanagami's lawyer, David Hecht, and they do appear identical.

Hanagami joins Fresh Prince's Alfonso Ribeiro (aka Carlton Banks from the show), BlocBoy JB, rapper 2 Milly, and the boy known as Orange Shirt Kid in suing Epic Games for allegedly copying dance moves and putting them in Fortnite without permission. Those previous cases failed because the Supreme Court agreed with Epic's argument: individual moves could not be copyrighted, so none of the people held the rights to the dances they claimed were theirs.

The difference with Hanagami's case is that he does own the official copyright to the How Long dance. And that could spell trouble for Epic Games.

The It's Complicated emote sells for 500 V-Bucks, the equivalent of around $5, on the Fortnite Item Shop, where its availability is rotated. The suit claims Epic Games profited from Hanagami's work without his consent. It asks that the emote be removed, and Hanagami is paid the profits Epic earned from it.

Hecht told Kotaku: "[Hanagami] felt compelled to file suit to stand up for the many choreographers whose work is similarly misappropriated. Copyright law protects choreography just as it does for other forms of artistic expression. Epic should respect that fact and pay to license the artistic creations of others before selling them."

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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,763   +7,676
6 second move is not a choreography. They are not going to win the lawsuit :)
Imagine if this was true and they would win. Disney would go on rampage with lawsuits. That is why this will be very quickly dismissed.

If you go back to the last summer Olympic's there was a particular popular runner that had a signature move, less than 6 seconds. He successfully took legal action against several companies that copied it. Sorry I can't remember his name, but I'll never forget that move of his, which I think most of the world would also agree to .....
 

brucek

Posts: 1,127   +1,671
I can't dance, I don't dance, yet I'm pretty I've made both those moves in my life. And since I'm older, it was probably before he did it.

Put in tech terms, someone with the right algorithm and access to enough photos is probably going to be able to prove prior art pretty easily on this.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,047   +775
Less things can be copyrighted in NZ - I mean could you copyright a method of cooking ?
Seems Epics defense is ether finding prior art or just using a small part .
My take is this won't make it to court - a couple of million dollar payoff - which is a good result - Epc like all the fat cats can stretch this out for eternity - lawyers cost - even if Epic finally pay that as well - plus stress and just need to get on with life .
As stated about - due diligence is needed - sometimes as we have seen - higher ups turn a blind eye - when some "creative" contractor rips off assets . Surely every dance move has be documented as to source etc
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 183   +86
In abstract form someone can register ONLY literature (written text) or music composition (written notes).

The performance of the dance it’s an expression of an abstract procedure of moves. The expression on a fixed format can be registered but the abstract procedures (that’s why you can’t register food recipes) they can’t because they are a form of utilitarian language.

So the only thing that it is copyright protected it’s the motion picture of his dance performance in that video, not the abstract form of the dance. That means that someone can reproduce a dance the same way can reproduce a food recipe.

In addition yt and tiktok terms give permission to other users to reproduce what you upload, so they can reproduce even the video with his performance because he has upload it to yt.
 

Phaetos

Posts: 99   +76
May as well sue James Brown. His moves were rips from 1920 and 30's tap

If you think about it in a broad sense, most modern dancing is exaggerated tap dancing. This is a ridiculous lawsuit to claim a copyright on a body movement that anyone could do without thinking about it. It did say the choreographer had copyrighted the entire dance of which that little emote was a 6sec portion, I still don't see how that even got a copyright, if it's true.
 

Phaetos

Posts: 99   +76
On a slightly petty note, it would interesting if say an entire stadium full of people suddenly performed this "copyrighted" dance move, and said dance artist guy tried to sue 100k for copyright infringement .. and failed.
 

RudyBob

Posts: 562   +523
If you think about it in a broad sense, most modern dancing is exaggerated tap dancing. This is a ridiculous lawsuit to claim a copyright on a body movement that anyone could do without thinking about it. It did say the choreographer had copyrighted the entire dance of which that little emote was a 6sec portion, I still don't see how that even got a copyright, if it's true.
Tap is seen in Michael "Squeaky" Jackson's move as well
 

Dr Roboto

Posts: 22   +34
I am not going to pretend to understand how you copyright a dance move. I can kind of understand it, but not how you would actually define it in a legal document.

However, my understanding is that the guy is suing because the dance move is being sold for money. It is not the case that you, me, or anyone else cannot replicate the dance moves. It is about using his particular move being used to make money without his consent. That is what all of the suits are about and practical all lawsuits that you see from singers and other artists. Epic is profiting from someone else's "prior art". If the government defines that you can copyright a dance move (apparently this guy did), then so be it. Just because you do not agree with a law does not mean you can ignore the law without consequence. The reason the other artists' suits failed is because it sounds like they did not officially copyright their moves, which is their fault not Epic's.
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 183   +86
I am not going to pretend to understand how you copyright a dance move. I can kind of understand it, but not how you would actually define it in a legal document.

However, my understanding is that the guy is suing because the dance move is being sold for money. It is not the case that you, me, or anyone else cannot replicate the dance moves. It is about using his particular move being used to make money without his consent. That is what all of the suits are about and practical all lawsuits that you see from singers and other artists. Epic is profiting from someone else's "prior art". If the government defines that you can copyright a dance move (apparently this guy did), then so be it. Just because you do not agree with a law does not mean you can ignore the law without consequence. The reason the other artists' suits failed is because it sounds like they did not officially copyright their moves, which is their fault not Epic's.
The copyright represents a series of exclusive rights (reproduction, adaptation, publication, display, performance, distribution) over the material and it registers automatically when an original work is expressed in a fixed medium and is irrelevant to commercial use or not. It’s illegal to “touch” in any way a copyrighted material (even if you store a photo that it’s not taken by you on the hard disk it is illegal).
Even now when I am replying to you and I quote your text it’s is illegal too. NO joke, you own the copyright of your text which was registered automatically when you wrote it in the fixed medium of the forum, it’s an original work and you didn't gave me written permission to reproduce it.

Same applies when you reply to emails. It’s illegal to reply to emails and quote the others person text because you reproduce it, redistribute it and so on.
 
Same applies when you reply to emails. It’s illegal to reply to emails and quote the others person text because you reproduce it, redistribute it and so on.

Tell us you do not understand copyright law without saying you do not understand copyright law.

Copyright is about protecting artistic expression, not comments on a news article or the basic contents of emails. Even if somehow it protected those things, there is still the fair-use doctrine which allows clips and snippets (sometimes the whole thing) to be used for a different purpose.
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 183   +86
Tell us you do not understand copyright law without saying you do not understand copyright law.

Copyright is about protecting artistic expression, not comments on a news article or the basic contents of emails. Even if somehow it protected those things, there is still the fair-use doctrine which allows clips and snippets (sometimes the whole thing) to be used for a different purpose.
Fair use can be applied only by a judge in a court, an individual can’t decide if it is fair use or not. The “literary works” which defined in section 101 of copyright acts is very broad and covers everything (even computer programs code), there is only originality threshold, no artistic threshold, as far I know only Brazil has an artistic threshold.

So if you reply to an email it is illegal because you reproduce and redistribute the original literally work of someone else, that's the law and it doesn't matter if you like it or not.
 
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