The lawsuit comes after a growing backlash against the use and sale of dances apparently used without permission. “Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularised these dances but never monetised them,” said Chicago musician Chance the Rapper in July. “Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them.”
Donald Faison, who played Chris Turk in US medical comedy Scrubs, claimed that Fortnite ‘jacked’ his ‘Poison’ dance he performed ad-hoc on the show.
The legal framework over copyrighting dance moves is complex. “At a high level, yes, you can copyright choreography,” Gregor Pryor, partner and music lawyer at international law firm Reed Smith, told The Telegraph. “Copyright protects an act of dance, in the UK it forms part of a dramatic work; a piece of dance or mime. Those dance moves can become original. There is no question in my mind that certain dance moves are original.”
Fortnite has become a cultural phenomenon and now has over 200 million registered players worldwide. Epic has made a over a reported $1bn in revenue on the game, largely through the sale of cosmetic items such as dances and costumes.