/ Fortnite

The curious case of Fortnite emotes and its lawsuits

There are reasons why Fortnite manages to keep itself on top of the biggest games in history of gaming. And one of its recognizable selling point is the in-game emotes featuring dance moves popularized across pop culture.

Interestingly, Epic Games are cashing in the “Fortnite dances” by selling them for real world money. And it ignores the artists and originators behind the dance moves as they do not receive recognition nor monetary returns from Epic.

Some artists may not care about their creations being used in the game. An example is Snoop Dogg whose wheel gesture in his hit song “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is being sold in the game for 500 V-Bucks or $5 real world money. But not all artists are like the Mr. Snoop, and several parties begin to raise concerns on what should Fortnite do to the artists behind the moves that they turned into emotes.

This makes celebrities and internet stars put the mega hit battle royale shooter under their radars and some of them began working with lawsuits to claim intellectual rights.

With that, here are some of the lawsuits that are challenging copyright claims over Fortnite’s dance moves.

The Milly Rock Dance

Terrence Ferguson, better known as 2 Milly is the first personality to sue Epic for copyright infringement when he accused the company of appropriating his “Milly Rock” dance move last December 5.

Milly is claiming that the “Swipe It” emote is identical to his signature “Milly Rock” dance and he seeks to “injunctive relief and damages including but not limited to, Epic’s profits attributed to its improper use of the Milly Rock and Ferguson’s likeness.”

The complaint even goes towards sensitive portions where he claims that Epic is “exploiting African-American talent in particular in Fortnite by copying their dances and movements.” It even cites several other dance moves that are also based on real life moves from established personalities.

The Carlton Dance

The “Fresh” emote came in to controversy after Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks in the ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air claimed rights for the “Carlton Dance” that he popularized during the sitcom’s airing.

The “Fresh” name of the emote is likely a straightforward reference to the sitcom itself, but questions on legal ownership of dance moves come afloat since issues like this boils down to an existence of a copyright.

Backpack Kid

Russell Horning, known as Backpack Kid gained internet popularity after videos of him dancing went viral. His particular dance move which is highly similar to Fortnite’s “The Floss” emote is now being contested by his legal representatives.

Although on Horning’s situation, the internet star participated on past Fortnite related events that are sanctioned by Epic itself. An interview from TMZ back in June 2018 initially suggests that he was not after monetizing his dance move saying “it’s not that big of a deal, I’m just glad it’s in the game.”

But tides had changed as his parents filed the lawsuit on behalf of the minor midway December 2018.

All these lawsuits have a similar situation. They do not own copyrights to their respective dances and they only applied for such days prior to filing the lawsuits. The nonexistence of copyrights complicates rights for ownership of intellectual properties such as dance moves.

Moreover, dances and gestures differ from how music and song lyrics are copyrighted. Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk”, arguably one of the best known dances of all time went through a lot of tricky situations before he gets to patent his “special shoes” used for the move. Take note that he only gets the rights for his shoes and not for the dance move itself.

All in all Epic is getting a handful of legal debacles regarding these claims. And whatever happens next lies for the court to decide.


MN | Neil Martinez

MN | Neil Martinez

A former editor and writer for a university publication, Neil has incorporated esports to what he does best. He is Mogul’s CS go-to guy and TNC Pro Team’s graphic artist and social media man.

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