A hot potato: The last few months have seen several people launch lawsuits against Epic Games for allegedly using their dance moves in Fortnite without permission. Now, the company has asked the judge in one of these cases to dismiss the claim, arguing that “no one can own a dance step.”
Epic Games is being sued by BlocBoy JB, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Afonso Ribeiro, Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning, Orange Shirt Kid, and rapper Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson, for unauthorized use of their dances.
Epic’s attorney, Dale Cendali, wrote in a letter to the California Federal Court that 2 Milly’s lawsuit was “fundamentally at odds with free speech.”
“No one can own a dance step,” the motion reads. “Copyright law is clear that individual dance steps and simple dance routines are not protected by copyright, but rather are building blocks of free expression, which are in the public domain for choreographers, dancers, and the general public to use, perform, and enjoy.”
Epic also claims that the “Swipe It” dance emote in question is different from 2 Milly’s version. According to the letter, the rapper’s move, referred to as “the Dance Step,” features the torso, shoulders, and head facing forward while the ribs move side to side with the arm movements. The emote, meanwhile, involves the torso, shoulders, and head turning side to side with the arm movements, and the ribs remaining in place. 2 Milly’s move is also said to be performed at a significantly quicker tempo. "The works simply are not substantially similar," said Epic.
How the judge responds to the argument will likely affect the other lawsuits. While The Carlton Dance has been removed from Forza Horizon 4, Ribeiro has admitted he “stole” the move, though he lawyer says he didn’t use the word in the legal sense. In the case of Orange Shirt Kid, his Orange Justice dance, originally called ‘The Random,’ was submitted to Epic Games as part of a competition. It didn’t win, but fans petitioned for its inclusion in Fortnite.