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Choreographer Ends Copyright Case Against ‘Fortnite’ Maker Epic Games Over Dance Moves

Mr. Nimbus | 02/14/2024

Fortnite owner Epic Games has reached an agreement with a celebrity choreographer to resolve his lawsuit claiming the company stole copyrighted dance moves, three months after a federal appeals court issued a first-of-its-kind ruling that allowed the case to move forward.

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In court filings on Monday, Epic and choreographer Kyle Hanagami asked a Los Angeles federal judge to dismiss his lawsuit, which had been schedule to go to trial in May. The terms of any kind of agreement were not made public, and neither side immediately returned requests for comment.

The lawsuit from Hanagami, who has worked with BTS, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, claimed that Epic had turned his novel dance moves into lucrative “emotes” that Fortnite players could buy in the game – one of a spate of such cases over the use of viral dance moves in video games.

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In his complaint, he claimed that Epic had copied a routine he created to a Charlie Puth song and used it without permission as the basis for a Fortnite “emote” — a pre-programmed dance move that players can purchase from Epic and employ using their digital avatars. He called it “intentional misappropriation” of his “fame and hard work.”

Dancers and choreographers have fought for years to protect pop music routines — like JaQuel Knight, who has created dances for Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion. But federal courts and the U.S. Copyright Office for years largely rejected those efforts, often ruling that copyright law only covers more extensive choreography, like ballets.

In August 2022, Hanagami’s case faced that same fate. A federal judge tossed the case by ruling that Epic had copied only several unprotected “poses” from Hanagami’s routine in Fortnite, and that even when combined together, they were just a “short” routine that couldn’t be covered by copyright law.

But in November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned that ruling, reviving Hanagami’s case and allowing it to move forward toward a jury trial. Calling its decision a “novel” ruling on “one of the oldest forms of human expression,” the appeals court said that dance copyrights should be analyzed more holistically — more similarly to how courts dissect copyrighted music.

“We see no reason to treat choreography differently,” the appeals court wrote. “Reducing choreography to ‘poses’ would be akin to reducing music to just ‘notes.’ Choreography is, by definition, a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into a coherent whole. The relationship between those movements and patterns, and the choreographer’s creative approach of composing and arranging them together, is what defines the work. The element of ‘poses,’ on its own, is simply not dynamic enough to capture the full range of creative expression of a choreographic work.”

That ruling sent the case back to the lower court for more proceedings, and a trial had been tentatively scheduled to begin in May.

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus




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