Like a blast from 2018’s distant past, Epic Games is being sued over a Fortnite emote. This time around, it’s the “It’s Complicated” emote, which plaintiff Kyle Hanagami claims is an unauthorized copy of the dance he choreographed for Charlie Puth’s 2017 song How Long.
Epic faced several lawsuits over Fortnite emotes in 2018-19, filed by 2 Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Orange Shirt Kid’s mother, among others. Generally, they claimed that Epic ripped off distinctive dance moves to use in Fortnite without crediting or paying the people who actually created them. This new lawsuit indicates that the “social media outcry” caused by these previous actions helped pressure Epic to enter into licensing agreements with some creators, but not all, and that Hanagami did not receive offer for the use of his work.
“Epic typically approaches younger and/or less sophisticated performers, such as those catapulted to fame on social media platforms like TikTok, about licensing choreography for pennies on the dollar,” the report says. trial. “Hanagami, a sophisticated businessman and established choreographer who is aware of the value of his choreography in general and recorded choreography in particular, has never been approached by Epic about licensing.”
Fortnite emote lawsuits came to an abrupt halt in 2019 due to a US Supreme Court ruling that changed the way copyright lawsuits could be filed. Previously, action could be taken as soon as a copyright claim had been registered, but the 2019 ruling said lawsuits could only be brought after the Copyright Office had approved or rejected a claim. application, a process that could sometimes take several months.
Attorney David Hecht, who is representing Hanagami in the lawsuit, said that’s what sets this case apart from previous emote lawsuits: the copyright in the choreography is registered, making it enforceable.
“Epic is taking advantage of my client’s hard work, and their infringement couldn’t be more egregious,” Hecht said in an email to PC Gamer. fundamentally unfair. He felt compelled to file a complaint to defend the many choreographers whose work is also misappropriated. Copyright law protects choreography as it does other forms of artistic expression. Epic should respect this fact and pay to authorize the artistic creations of others before selling them.
Hecht, who represented 2 Milly in his 2018 lawsuit against Epic over the Swipe It emote, also created a video showcasing the similarities between How Long and the It’s Complicated emote.
There’s no denying that they’re virtually identical, but that doesn’t make the case a lock. The It’s Complicated emote only features a small portion of the choreography from How Long, for one thing, and also includes moves that aren’t part of Hanagami’s dance. And according to a 2021 report from Dance Magazine, choreography copyrights are inherently difficult to enforce because there are very few precedents.
“What we’re really missing, I think, is the amount of litigation needed 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 many of their arguments on the results of previous cases. As dance has very few law cases copyright, it is difficult to bring in court.”
Hanagami is seeking an injunction against the use of her work in Fortnite, as well as damages and legal costs. I have contacted Epic for comment and will update if I receive a response.