- Alfonso Ribeiro of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” Instagram star Ryan “Backpack Kid” Huggins, and rapper 2 Milly will sue the creators of “Fortnite” for allegedly copying their dances and selling them in the game.
- While 2 Milly has been the most vocal about the similarities between “Fortnite” dances and existing work, several artists have accused the game’s creators of taking their dances without permission or pay.
- “Fortnite: Battle Royale” is the world’s most popular game, making more than $200 million a month selling emotes and other cosmetic items for use in game.
“America’s Funniest Home Videos” host Alfonso Ribeiro and Instagram star Backpack Kid are the latest artists to sue the creators of “Fortnite” for allegedly copying their dance moves. Both stars have enlisted law firm Pierce Bainbridge to pursue cases against both Epic Games and “NBA 2K” developer “2K Games.”
In his lawsuit Riberio claims “Fortnite” developer Epic Games copied “The Carlton Dance” he made famous while starring in the 1990s TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” “Fortnite” added an emote called “Fresh” to the game in January 2018 that seems inspired by Ribeiro’s moves. In the video below you can see the in-game dance alongside Ribeiro’s performance of “The Carlton Dance” on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014. The “Fresh” emote is sold for 800 v-bucks, the equivalent of $8, in the “Fortnite” shop.
Ryan “Backpack Kid” Huggins is the 16-year-old internet sensation responsible for the “Floss” dance-craze that began in the spring of 2017. Huggins is credited with creating the dance and performed it alongside Katy Perry on “Saturday Night Live” in May 2017. An emote named “Floss” appeared in “Fortnite” in December 2017 as a part of the game’s Season 2 Battle Pass.
Ribeiro and Horning’s lawsuits follow Brooklyn rapper 2 Milly’s announcement that he would sue “Fortnite” developer Epic Games for allegedly stealing a dance he created, the “Milly Rock.” 2 Milly has been vocal about his distaste for the game’s monetization of popular dances in interviews with Insider and CBS News. The “Milly Rock” dance originally arose in 2014 from the video for 2 Milly’s song of the same name, “Milly Rock.”
“Fortnite” added a dancing emote called “Swipe It” to the game in July 2018 that appears to be inspired by the Milly Rock. For a time, players could unlock the dance through playing or by paying cash to level up the game’s Season 5 Battle Pass, but Swipe It can no longer be acquired in-game. Players who unlocked it before can still use it though.
“Fortnite: Battle Royale” is the world’s most popular game and has a massive audience that most artists can only dream of. While the game is free-to-play, the majority of its earnings come from the sale of emotes and other cosmetic items in-game. The game generated more than $300 million in revenue in the month of May and those emotes are available to more than 200 million registered players around the world, with no mention of the artists who inspired them.
2 Milly and Ribeiro aren’t the only artists claiming that the game turned their original dance into emotes for purchase in “Fortnite” without permission or pay. Rapper BlocBoy JB criticized the use of his “Shoot” dance in “Fortnite” and actor Donald Faison claimed that “Fortnite” lifted a dance he performed for the TV show “Scrubs” as the game’s default dance.
On Twitter, Chance the Rapper also suggested that Epic Games should find a way to compensate the creators behind the dances.
Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2018
Pierce Bainbridge is representing multiple cases against Epic Games, and not all of them are related to “Fortnite.” The firm also claims that Epic used the likeness of former NFL player Len “Skip” Hamilton to create the character Cole Train for the Gears of War video game series. Pierce Bainbridge partner David L. Hecht claims that Epic Games has repeatedly “misappropriated the likeness of African-American talent.”
Experts have been skeptical of whether artists can claim ownership over a dance, compared to the clear copyright laws that protect music and song lyrics, but it seems that won’t stop artists from trying to protect their creative interests.