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Choreographer Kyle Hanagami is suing the company over its use of the "It's Complicated" emote.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

March 31, 2022

2 Min Read

Epic Games is being sued again over a dance move it has included in Fortnite.

A choreographer called Kyle Hanagami, who has worked with artists including Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, has filed a lawsuit against the company over its use of the "It's Complicated" emote.

As noted by Kotaku, Hanagami's lawyers filed the suit in the Central District of California on March 29, 2022, and specifically allege the emote lifts copyrighted dance moves from a routine created by Hanagami for Charlie Puth's "How Long" music video.

The filing states that Epic "did not credit Hanagami nor seek his consent to use, display, reproduce, sell, or create a derivative work based on the Registered Choreography."

Hanagami's lawyer, David Hecht, also uploaded a video on YouTube (shown below) that aims to show the similarities between the choreographer's routine and the Fortnite emote.

This isn't the first time Epic has been sued for building emotes around iconic dance moves. Back in 2018, the company faced lawsuits from numerous celebrities including Alfonso Ribeiro, 2 Milly, and Russell Horning for allegedly using their dance moves in-game without permission.

Epic pushed back against those suits and claimed "no one can own a dance step," and was eventually backed by the U.S. Supreme Court who agreed that anybody suing Epic over a dance move must hold the copyright.

In this instance, however, Hanagami does hold the official copyright for his routine. That fact alone changes the state of play, and it'll be interesting to see how the case progresses.

Speaking to Kotaku, Hanagami's lawyer David Hecht said the artist "felt compelled" to file the suit in order to stand up for other choreographers. "Copyright law protects choreography just as it does for other forms of artistic expression," added Hecht. "Epic should respect that fact and pay to license the artistic creations of others before selling them."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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