The opiate of the teenage masses, Fortnite, is being dragged into court by rapper 2 Milly, who believes that they’ve profited on his dance behind his back.
The primary aspect of Fortnite is dancing on the corpses of the betas you just ended. To accomplish this, you have a wealth of emotes to choose from. However, it is that very aspect that is seeing the creator of the game, Epic Games, in court.
Rapper 2 Milly is making them front court for allegedly using (and profiting from) a dance move he created without his permission.
The move in question is the “Milly Rock,” which the artist created in a music video in 2014. The move blew up, used by the likes of Rihanna and Manchester United. What the defining point in the Fortnite’s usage of, is that players need to purchase a battle pass ($10) in order to unlock it.
This, my fam, is the Milly Rock, created by MC @2__Milly.
The dance has been popular in Brooklyn since 2015, when this dropped: https://t.co/fxKmZyLcaZ
Many will call it the “Swipe it” dance from Fortnite after today, so for the culture, I thought u should know the true origin. pic.twitter.com/VN668A1fnv
— Malik Forté 🎤 (@Malik4Play) July 12, 2018
The battle pass represents the main revenue stream of Fortnite. Despite the fact that the game is free to play, costumes, emotes and similar purely aesthetic add-ons add up to the millions of dollars the game earns a day. Despite the fact that you cannot still purchase 2 Milly’s move (although those who previously bought it can still use it), the rapper wants it removed from the game outright.
Another example of Fortnite cribbing the moves of others is the “floss dance” originally performed by Russell Horning (aka the “backpack kid”). Earlier this year, Chance the Rapper also laid into Fortnite for appropriating content by artists without credit or compensation, saying the following on Twitter:
Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2018
A less contemporary example was felt by Donald Faison (best known from Scrubs) who also had his episodal dance planted into the Fortnite realm.
Faison also took to Twitter (albeit in a more jovial tone) about ringing the lawyers. But, the key is 2 Milly as his lawsuit is the first actual legal challenge against the video game realm for the appropriation of pop culture. It’s a fairly slippery slope, as many video games are either inspired by existing pop culture tropes and aesthetics, e.g. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City that heavily used elements of Miami Vice, or perhaps the Metal Gear Solid series, with creator Hideo Kojima practically stealing the contours of his protagonist wholesale from John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. Interesting point, the latter was almost brought to court in 2015, but was shot down when Carpenter chose not to pursue proceedings, as he believed Kojima was a “nice guy”.
The question, I suppose, is differentiating what constitutes a tip of the hat, and outright plagiarism. While dance choreography is protected under the Copyright Act, the law does not necessarily protect individual moves. However, according to Quartz, “…if Fortnite’s developers created the emotes based on popular dances by “coding still frames of the source material,” as the lawsuit alleges, there could be significant cause for Fortnite to worry.”