Epic Games, no stranger to lawsuits over dance emotes, is being hit with another lawsuit over Fortnite‘s “It’s Complicated” emote. In the previous cases, the lawsuits were put on hold due to the Supreme Court of the United States changing the legal requirements for copyright infringement. Instead of being able to sue after filing for copyright, now, plaintiffs must have a copyright in order for the case to be heard. Due to this technicality, the lawsuits against Epic Games were dismissed until the creators of the dance moves acquire the copyrights.
With this change, Epic Games has been able to continue without lawsuits for about four years. However, unlike the previous lawsuits, the creator of the “It’s Complicated” dance, Hanagami, actually has a copyright to his dance. Hanagami’s dance originates from a 2017 video from his YouTube channel, a choreographed cover of Charlie Puth’s song, “How Long”. Currently, Hanagami’s video has 35.8 million views.
On Tuesday, Hanagami filed a lawsuit against Epic Games in federal court for the Central District of California. In his complaint, Hanagami alleges Epic Games uses the “hook” of his dance for the beginning of the “It’s Complicated” emote without his consent. For retribution, Hanagami seeks Fortnite to end the use of the “It’s Complicated” emote, unspecified compensatory damages, and legal fees.
While Hanagami is taking legal action against Epic Games, the actual chances of Hanagami receiving the monetary damages he seeks may be slim. First, proving someone stole a dance move is extremely difficult because any variations of the dance move fall under creative expression, which is legally protected. Therefore, the dance moves generally have to be exactly identical in order to obtain the verdict Hanagami desires. This may prove troublesome to Hanagami because, while his lawyers released a side-by-side comparison detailing the beginning is identical; however, the rest of the emote is different and uses a different song than Hanagami’s video.