Epic Games has another lawsuit on its hands over a dance emote featured in Fortnite, this time over The Running Man. The suit is just the latest on the growing pile of legal cases that accuse Epic Games of stealing and profiting off of famous dances (many created by black artists) without asking or compensating the original creators of those dances.
The Running Man case, however, is slightly different from past lawsuits due to the fact that the ones levying the case against Epic Games aren’t the original creators of the dance itself. Instead, the lawsuit has been filed by Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens, two former college basketball players who say they popularized the Running Man through the viral 2016 Running Man challenge.
The lawsuit seeks over $5 million in damages and claims Epic Games “did not credit Plaintiffs nor seek their consent to use, display, reproduce, sell, or create a derivative work based upon Plaintiffs’ Running Man dance or likeness.”
Copyright law regarding dance moves on its own is a complicated beast since individual steps cannot be copyrighted under current rules, and the Running Man suit takes that murkiness one step further since the Running Man itself existed (and saw a mainstream presence) decades before Brantley and Nickens popularized the challenge.
Epic Games, meanwhile, just recently spoke out against the onslaught of lawsuits that accuse the company of taking and profiting from the work of each dance's original creators.
Specifically, the company urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the rapper 2Milly saying that the “Plaintiff's lawsuit is fundamentally at odds with free speech principles as it attempts to impose liability, and thereby chill creative expression, by claiming rights that do not exist under the law.”
Fresh Prince star Alfonso Ribeiro and Russell Horning (better known as Backpack Kid) have both filed similar lawsuits against the company as well.