Fortnite has copyright lawsuit dismissed over “It’s Complicated” emote

Epic Games
Epic Games /

Fortnite has won yet another legal battle, this time over an emote.

For those who don’t know, Fortnite was being sued by California-based choregrapher Kyle Hanagami over the use of a particular “hook” (set of movements) from a choreography music video he released.The game later used that “hook” from Hanagami’s music video as part of a dance emote called “It’s Complicated”.

Hanagami’s lawyer released a video showing the specific parts of the dance sequences from both Hangami’s dance video and from Fortnite’s emote and they are identical. That being said, that’s the issue, at least according to the judge.

The judge ruled that Hangami didn’t have the grounds for copyright infringement and for one very valid reason; Fortnite’s “It’s Complicated” emote only used *part* of Hangami’s dance routine. The entire emote only contains a second or two of the routine. Most of the routine is vastly different than anything Hangami used, thus making it transformative in nature.

It’s very hard to copyright dance moves and this isn’t the first time that Fortnite has been on the end of this situation before.

Fortnite wins another dance-based copyright lawsuit

It’s ironic that a dance instructor who used someone else’s song for their music video would get this bent out of shape but here we are. Hanagami lost the suit because Fortnite took the proper steps to change the dance routine up enough to avoid this problem.

That’s because the United States Copyright Office won’t copyright “simple dance routines”. This was the case when Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star, Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks) tried to sue Fortnite for using his Carlton Dance as an emote. Unlike Hangamai’s case, Fortnite outright used the entirety of Carlton’s dance, recreating it shot for shot.

It was also noticeably shorter and easier to perform than Hanagami’s dance, however, and so due to its simple nature, it isn’t able to be copyrighted. More than likely the judge saw the ruling from the Copyright Office and used their ruling on that case to influence their ruling on this one.

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