- Epic Games sued by choreographer
- Copyright protects dance routines
- Court holds individual dance steps, however. are not protectedWhere there’s a hit there’s a writ.
Epic Games, the US video game and software developer and publisher founded in 1991 by CEO Tim Sweeney, has won the copyright claim brought against it by choreographer, Kyle Hanagami.
Kyle Hanagami has choreographed for artists such as BlackPink, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, CNCO, Justin Beiber and NSync, and has partnered with global brands including Nike, Disney and Calvin Klein. He has built an online empire with his numerous viral dance videos and holds the title for the most viewed YouTube dance video of all time, with his choreography to Ed Sheeran’s – Shape of You
Kyle Hanagami claimed that one of the dance emotes called “It’s Complicated” used in Epic Games online video game, Fortnite, used movements from a copyrighted routine created for Charlie Puth’s 2017 hit song, “How Long”. Emotes are dance moves or other actions players can purchase for their characters to perform.
Kyle Hanagami created his choreography to Charlie Puth’s song “How Long” in 2017. Fortnite launched the “It’s Complicated” emote in August 2020.
During the case Kyle Hanagami’s attorney showcased a video of the choreography next to the Fortnite emote, highlighting the similarities between the two. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXYDr9o_FJY&t=1s
Epic Games argued that the moves in the dance routine are “too generic” to be afforded copyright protection. The US District Court judge Stephen Wilson dismissed the lawsuit and ruled that the two works do not share enough “creative elements” for the Fortnite emote to constitute infringement.
“In large part defendant relies on guidance from the US Copyright Office, which recognizes the continuum between copyrightable choreography and uncopyrightable dance,” US Judge Stephen Wilson went on to explain in his ruling that the “guidance from the Copyright Office suggests that the steps are unprotectable.”
The US Copyright Office has rejected the dance move known as the ‘Floss,’ created by Russell Horning aka Backpack Kid. When those steps are incorporated into a larger body of work, the Copyright Office registered the routine.
In summary, it was held that Epic Games had not copied enough of the choreography routine for it to be considered copyright infringement.
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