Choreographer Settles Lawsuit Against Epic Games Over Fortnite Dance Moves

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Choreographer Settles Lawsuit Against Epic Games Over Fortnite Dance Moves

Dhruv Bhatnagar
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Highlights
In a groundbreaking case for intellectual property, famous choreographer Kyle Hanagmi has settled a lawsuit against Epic Games over the use of his dance routine in Fortnite.
The legal fight started in March 2022 when Kyle Hanagmi filed a case against Epic Games claiming that the video game giant had infringed upon his intellectual property rights.

Epic Games, the mind behind the popular video game Fortnite, and a celebrity choreographer have settled a dispute concerning a dance move. The settlement, issued on 12th February, resolves a case in which Kyle Hanagami accused Epic Games of infringing the copyright in his choreographic work by developing and selling a virtual animation as an emote that included elements of his registered choreography. 

Epic Games Resolves Copyright Case Over Fortnite Dance Moves

In court filings on 12th February 2024, popular choreographer Kyle Hanagami requested a Los Angeles federal judge to dismiss his lawsuit against Epic Games, which was to go to trial in May. However, the terms of the agreement have yet to be made public. The lawsuit from Hanagami, who has previously worked with Justin Bieber, BTS, Jennifer Lopez, and other notable names, accused Epic Games of stealing his dance moves and turning them into lucrative 'emotes' that players could purchase in Fortnite. In August 2020, Epic Games released an emote titled "It's Complicated" in Fortnite. 

Choreographer Settles Lawsuit Against Epic Games Over Fortnite Dance Moves

In his complaint, Kyle Hanagami claimed that Epic Games' emote had copied a routine he had developed for a Charlie Puth song and used it without his permission. It's not the first time that choreographers have taken to courts to protect their music routines. However, federal courts and the U.S. Copyright Office haven't acknowledged those efforts for years, often declaring that copyright laws only cover extensive choreography and apathy, such as ballets. 

Initially, Hanagami's case against Epic Games suffered the same fate. A federal judge rejected the case in August 2022 by stating that Epic Games had only copied a few unprotected 'poses' from the choreographer's routine in their game. When combined, they were just a "short" routine, which wasn't protected by copyright law.

However, in November 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided to overturn the previous ruling, revive Hanagami's case, and allow it to move toward a jury trial. The appeals court stated that the copyrights should be analyzed more holistically, similarly to how courts protect copyrighted music. 

It's not the first time Epic Games has faced lawsuits over copying of Viral Dances. Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played as Carlton Banks on 'The Fresh Prince' of Bel Air' went ahead and filed a lawsuit against Epic Games in 2019 related to the Carlton Dance. In the same year, professional saxophone player Leo Pellegrino filed a lawsuit against Epic for stealing his "Signature Move" as an emote in Fortnite. 


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