The rapper 2 Milly's lawsuit against the creators of the popular video game Fortnite is raising questions about whether exclusive choreography can be protected by copyright.
The hip-hop artist based in New York, whose real name is Terrence Ferguson, is claiming that Epic Games stole a popular dance movement brand in 2015 called "Milly Rock" and renamed it "Swipe it."
"If you have the players in the game doing the Milly Rock, I'd say it's for promotion – it kind of helps me score," said 2 Milly in an interview with FaceTime of Brooklyn, NY "But when you accept it without permission, and you start selling it online, that's when it becomes a problem for me. "
Fortnite, a prized and free battle royale game that has become a cultural phenomenon since it was released in 2017, includes litigation groove as one of its emotes, or custom dances. An emote allows users to individualize their avatars and can be purchased as an upgrade. These complements contributed in large part to the company's huge financial gains.
Watch: Swipe It & # 39; from Fortnite
According to Forbes, the game has already surpassed $ 1 billion since its launch. The dances have become a worldwide sensation, seen throughout the social media.
"We do not comment on ongoing litigation," Epic Games public relations manager Nick Chester told CBC News in an e-mail when asked about the allegations.
Watch: 2 Milly does Milly Rock & # 39;
"Milly Rock is my trade, my everything," said 2 Milly. "It's my signature move, it's me. I perform it on every show I've ever had, you know what I'm saying? So for them to take the real thing and play it in the game and rename it as" Glide It's how we're going to steal it from him.
Arguments on both sides & # 39;
If the similarity means copyright infringement represents a challenge without great legal precedent.
"There are arguments from both sides," said David Zitzerman, head of the entertainment law division of Goodman's LLP in Toronto, who is not involved in the lawsuit.
It is a very well known movement within the dance industry. If I had created something like this and knew that this multibillion dollar company is making money from something I created, I would be furious too.– choreographer Derick Robinson of Toronto
He said there could be a case when it comes to what is called US advertising rights, or personality rights under Canadian law.
"Can you say that you take ownership of the rapper persona by doing dance moves that are very identified by the audience with that particular person?" he said.
Proving copyright infringement by itself may be more difficult, however. According to directives on their website, the US Copyright Office "can not record short dance routines that consist of just a few moves or steps with small linear or spatial variations, even if a routine is new or different."
"That's the kind of question that needs to be addressed in this kind of case," Zitzerman said.
Inspiration versus appropriation
Many of the video game emoticons are drawn from famous dance moves, including the 1990s sitcom Carleton's memorable jig Bel-Air Fresh Prince and Psy Gangnam style pony dancing
Still, 2 Milly is not the only one calling the game to copy the choreography of other people. An emote named Tidy was compared to a dance movement of the famous Snoop Dogg Release it as if it were hot video.
Watch: Side-by-side comparison of Drop It Like It's Hot Vs. Tidy emote
Rap BlocBoy JB's Shot dance, which was also incorporated in his Look alive collaboration with the Canadian star Drake, seems to have inspired the emoticon of the game.
And a routine made in TV comedy Rub per person of Donald Faison Dr. Chris Turk known as FortniteDance thrilled the actor wondering aloud if he should "talk to a lawyer."
Dear fortnite … am I flattered? Although part of me thinks I should talk to a lawyer …
Giving credit where credit is due
Chance of the rapper to have taken a step further – calling the appropriation of images and begging the video game manufacturers to start using rap music that accompanies the original moves.
"Black creations created and popularized these dances, but never monetized them," he posted on Twitter in July.
Fortnite must put the real rap songs behind the money-making dances like Emotes. Black creations created and popularized these dances, but never made them profitable. Imagine the money that people spend with these Emotes being shared with the artists who made them
Toronto choreographer Derick Robinson said he has his own experience with what he calls "plagiarism" of dance moves. He said 2 Milly's "Milly Rock" deserves to at least be credited in the game.
When Beyoncé did the & Milly Rock & # 39; in her performance, she really reached out. When JLo did the & Milly Rock & # 39; in her recent performance she had planned, she held out her hand. "– 2 Milly being credited for her signature dance move
"It's a very well-known movement within the dance industry," Robinson said. "If I had created something like that and knew that this multibillion dollar company is making money from something I created, I would be furious too."
2 Milly said it's expensive to start a lawsuit, especially against a large gaming company, and he's not looking for money or advertising. He believes that creators must have an understanding built around respect.
"When Beyoncé did Milly Rock in her performance, she really did," said 2 Milly. "When JLo did the 'Milly Rock' in her recent performance she had planned, she reached out."
"It's like they (Epic Games) basically robbed me."