Fortnite Is Being Sued Over Dance Moves, Again

While nothing has come of previous lawsuits, another choreographer is taking on Epic Games.

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The latest in a long line of lawsuits targeting Fortnite over dance moves comes from Kyle Hanagami, a professional choreographer who has worked with artists including J.Lo, Britney Spears, BlackPink, NSYNC, and more. In a suit filed on March 29, lawyers representing Hanagami sued Epic Games over copyrighted choreography used in the It's Complicated dance emote, Kotaku reports.

The choreography comes from a video Hanagami posted in 2017, featuring a challenging dance routine set to Charlie Puth's How Long. In August 2020, Fortnite released the It's Complicated emote, with the first section of the dance appearing almost identical to Hanagami's choreography. The lawsuit states that Epic "did not credit Hanagami nor seek his consent to use, display, reproduce, sell, or create a derivative work based on the Registered Choreography," and Hanagami's lawyers have released a video that compares the movements in both clips in granular detail.

A number of similar lawsuits have been filed against Epic Games in the past, but all of them are have since been dropped. In one case, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro sued Fortnite over the Fresh emote, which featured a dance made famous by Ribeiro's character Carlton. The case was dropped as Ribeiro was still waiting to hear from the US Copyright Office on his copyright application for the dance, which was later declined due to the simplicity of the dance. Other suits filed by rapper 2 Milly, Backpack Kid, and "Orange Shirt Kid" over other Fortnite dance emotes were also dropped for "procedural" reasons.

Hanagami's case may yet turn out differently, as the choreographer does already hold the copyright for the So Long dance. The emote in question rotates occasionally through the Fortnite Item Shop, where it sells for 500 V-Bucks, the equivalent of around $5. The suit argues that Fortnite has profited off Hanagami's copyrighted work without his consent, and asks that Epic Games remove the emote and pay Hanagami the profits that were earned through it.

"[Hanagami] felt compelled to file suit to stand up for the many choreographers whose work is similarly misappropriated," lawyer David Hecht said to Kotaku in a statement. "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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