It may be hard to accept or even understand but Fortnite has become not just the most popular game in recent months but also one of the most profitable. It has definitely given game development giant Epic Games a lot of confidence to call the shots as far as its Android port goes. It may, however, have also made a bit careless in its rush to capitalize on its popularity. At least one artist is testing the legal waters by suing Epic Games over the misappropriation of his popular dance move, the Milly Rock.
Unless they happen to be hip-hop fans or abreast in pop culture, Fortnite gamers might not even know what the Milly Rock is. They will, however, be familiar with the new “Swipe It” emote that landed in stores in the game’s fifth season update. In fact, some younger gamers think the dance, which originated back in 2014, came from the game instead.
That’s exactly one of the fears that artists like 2 Milly and Chance the Rapper have over this most recent Fortnite scandal. Taken out of their original context and even renamed, generations of gamers will mistakenly associate the product as the origin. Chance says that Epic should have included the rap songs behind the dance moves it is making a lot of money on.
Some will defend that this is really all about money. If Fortnite wasn’t making millions, there wouldn’t be a lawsuit. Even 2 Milly admits that Milly Rock was also used without even just his permission in NBA 2K18 and that one flew under the radar. There is, however, a lot more at stake here than just money. Issues of ethical practices, cultural misappropriation, and, yes, even racism, are going to be thrown around until the case gets its final verdict.
The bigger question now is whether 2 Milly and other artists will have legal recourse. The US Copyright office seems to have a very narrow definition of copyrightable “choreographic work” and this lawsuit against Epic Games could become a landmark case in that regard.