Fortnite, the popular video game that has taken the world by storm, is under fire for allegedly misappropriating dance moves for their characters without compensating the creators of the dance moves, or even asking for permission.
Fresh Prince star, Alfonso Ribeiro is suing Epic games, claiming that Fornite stole his infamous “Carlton Dance” and now calls it “The Fresh.” The Youtuber, Backpack Kid, says that Fortnite stole the dance move “The Floss” from him. BlocBoy J says that he came up with the “Shoot Dance,” while 2 Milly is suing for theft of his move, “Milly Rock.”
The videos below demonstrate the obvious similarities between the dances made popular by the artists listed above, and those that are used in the game Fortnite. But the legal question still remains: can you actually sue someone for stealing your dance moves? And, can a dance move be copyrighted in the first place?
Legally speaking, yes, you can copyright a dance move. The United States Copyright office says that choreography can be copyrighted if it is 1) an original work and shows some level of creativity and 2) the dance is fixed in a tangible object—meaning that it’s more than an “idea” for a dance, but that it’s recorded on video or that there are specific, written instructions on how to perform the dance.
A dancer or artist does not have to formally register their dance moves to receive copyright protection. In the case of an original dance move that was unique and fixed in a tangible object, copyright protection is granted the moment the dance is created and lasts for the lifetime of the creator and another seven years after the creator’s death.
However, enforcing one’s copyright of a dance move is a different story. In order to sue for copyright infringement of a dance move, it must be formally registered with the United States Copyright office. Both Alfonso Ribeiro and Backpack Kid are in the process of registering their copyrights with the US Copyright Office, as they have not done so previously. Only then can they bring their suit into court for damages and a possible award for future royalties.
Game Creators: Think Twice Before Using Someone Else’s Work
For creators of apps or video games, it can be tempting to borrow from popular culture in order to make your game more appealing to users. But misappropriating content or art, like well-known dance moves, might result in a copyright infringement suit down the road. If you ever wonder whether the content that you want to use, such as a move, song, written word or any other work created by a different artist, then take the time to run your ideas by an experienced copyright attorney. The investment you make to get sound legal advice during the creation of your game or platform will pay off massively down the road from an IP perspective.
With that said, if you need advice about a copyright matter, or you’d like guidance in copyrighting a piece of chorography or a dance move, we invite you to contact our Intellectual Property attorneys at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.