Like a blast from the distant past in 2018, Epic Games is being sued over a Fortnite emote. This time it’s “it’s complicatedExpression, which plaintiff Kyle Hanagami said was an unauthorized copy of a dance he choreographed to Charlie Puth’s 2017 song “How Long.”
Epic faced multiple lawsuits over Fortnite emotes in 2018-19, brought by 2 Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Orange Shirt Kid’s mom, among others. In general, they claim that Epic copied the unique dance moves used in Fortnite without crediting or paying the people who actually created them. The new lawsuit alleges that the “social media outcry” sparked by these previous actions helped Epic enter licensing deals with some, but not all, creators — and that Hanagami was not offered an offer to use his work.
“Epic typically engages with young and/or less established artists, such as those who have made a name for themselves on social media platforms such as TikTok, who license choreography for a penny,” the lawsuit said. “Hanagami is a A well-established businessman and well-known choreographer who is generally aware of the value of his choreography, especially registered choreographers, Epic has never approached him about licensing issues.”
Fortnite emote litigation came to an abrupt halt in 2019 thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that changed the way copyright lawsuits are filed. Previously, copyright applications could be acted upon once they were registered, but a 2019 ruling declared that litigation could only be brought after the Copyright Office approved or rejected the application, a process that can sometimes take months.
Attorney David Hecht, who represented Hanagami in the lawsuit, said that’s why this case is different from previous emoji lawsuits: The choreography’s copyright is registered, so it can be enforced.
“Epic profited from the hard work of my customers, and their infringement couldn’t be more obvious,” Hecht said in an email to PC Gamer. Not fair at all. He felt compelled to file a lawsuit to stand up for the many choreographers whose jobs were also stolen. Copyright law protects choreography as it protects other forms of artistic expression. Epic should respect this fact and pay before selling other people’s artistic creations. “
Hecht, who represented 2 Milly in the 2018 Swipe It emote lawsuit against Epic, also made a video showing the similarities between How Long and It’s Complicated emotes.
Admittedly, they are actually the same, but that doesn’t make the situation a lock. The It’s Complicated emote contains only a small part of How Long’s choreography, on the one hand, it also includes movements that are not part of Hanagami’s dance.According to the 2021 report dance magazineChoreographic rights are inherently difficult to enforce because there are few precedents.
“I think what we’re really missing is the number of lawsuits needed to fully understand the elements of copyright infringement in choreography,” attorney Gregory Desantis told the site. “There simply aren’t many cases that can be litigated. In court, attorneys will rely on previous The outcome of the case presents many arguments. Because there are so few copyright cases in dance, it is difficult to go to court.”
Hanagami is seeking an injunction against the use of his work in Fortnite, as well as damages and legal fees. I’ve reached out to Epic for comment and will update if I hear back.