Epic Games can’t seem to escape from the negative spotlight of legal controversies. There was originally the copyright row with PUBG Corporation’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and now there’s a case brewing over one of the game’s in-game dances.
The dance in the game is called the “Swipe” and it was one of the new emotes that was featured in the Season 5 Battle Pass update some months back. Given how popular the game is and how widespread the dancing moves are, the “Swipe” dance move eventually found its way to 2 Milly, who originally stated that he had an issue with the move being in the game without receiving any credit for it. He mentioned originally that he didn’t mind that the move was in the game, but he did have an issue with the move appearing in the game without any credit.
Nevertheless, Milly Rock apparently filed for a copyright on his dance move with the U.S. Copyright Office on December 4th, just a day before filing the suit against Epic Games.
The suit states that Epic is profiting from the dance due to improper use of Milly Rock’s dance. This is moving into some almost uncharted territory because copyright law regarding dance moves and choreography is a tangled web of confusion.
Law Street has a breakdown of how it was a real mess and a fight to get the rights to certain dance moves and routines created by a famous choreographer who passed away. When multiple people are involved with creating the move(s), who gets the copyright? In this case, however, it’s definitely easier to point to Milly Rock as the creator of the move, but then there’s the issue of defining the work as copyright.
But, even if Milly is proven to be the one who came up with the move first, can he prove it belongs to him and not someone else? Well, that’s why he filed with the copyright office. The thing is, what happens if the copyright office denies the request? Does that mean it voids the legal case against Epic Games for using the move in Fortnite?
So far Epic hasn’t commented on the lawsuit yet, but it’s tough to tell which way it’ll go. The thing to consider is that if Milly Rock does manage to successfully sue Epic for including the dance in the game, then does it open the door for every other choreographer and media property to sue Epic for including dance moves in the game? It would definitely escalate things beyond previous lawsuits like the one involving the 14-year-old cheater, which certainly didn’t contain the long term ramifications that come with the current lawsuit. It could also play a big role in potentially affecting Epic getting the new digital storefront off the ground.