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Epic Games sued for copying Kyle Hanagami’s dance moves in its ‘Fortnite’ game

Epic Games has been hit with a lawsuit by a Los Angeles-based choreographer Kyle Hanagami alleging it ripped off his dance steps in its Fortnite game.

Hanagami, who has choreographed for pop stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, claimed in court that Epic Games took the "hook" segment of his dance from the viral video and used it without his permission in the "It's Complicated" Emote in Fortnite.

The dancer had posted a video on YouTube in 2017 in which he can be seen dancing to Charlie Puth's "How Long" choreographed by himself. The video received over 35 million views on YouTube since then and was copyright protected in the United States in February 2021.

To highlight the similarities, his lawyers made a video comparing the dance from the original viral video to the dance in Fortnite.

His lawyers complained that Epic has “unfairly profited from exploiting Hanagami’s Registered Choreography.”

However, Epic Games dismissed the allegations by saying that “imagine a ballet without a grand jeté, a yoga class without a downward-dog pose, or the film Dirty Dancing without Patrick Swayze lifting Jennifer Grey over his head.”

Epic contended by saying "the steps are merely building blocks of choreographic expression, which are not protectable — just as words and short phrases, geometric shapes, and colors are not protectable in written or printed works — as protecting them would prevent others from creating new works."

It argued: "Congress made clear that, although copyright law protects choreography, it does not protect individual dance steps or simple routines."

Epic claims Hanagami has cherry-picked four steps (that take two seconds to perform) out of 16 steps in just one of 500 emotes in the video game, and moreover, that he only registered the dance steps after the alleged infringement.

This is not the first time Epic Games has been sued over famous dance moves. A rapper named 2Milly claimed that the video game Fortnite copied his signature “Milly Rock” dance move and profited from it by turning it into an in-game Emote called “Swipe It” that players were able to unlock if they buy the game’s US$10 seasonal Battle Pass add-on. Alfonso Ribeiro, who originated the Carlton dance in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," previously also sued Epic but later dropped the suit.

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