Backpack Kid isn’t the only one feeling ripped off by “Fortnite” and Epic Games. Alfonso Ribeiro, creator of “The Carlton” dance during his time on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and rapper 2 Milly, creator of the “Milly Rock” dance, also have seen what they claim are their creations used in “Fortnite” without payment. Each of these artists has sued Epic Games for exploiting and appropriating their work.
The suits are currently in a holding pattern. Pierce Bainbridge, the law firm representing the artists, recently withdrew the suits, pending a ruling from the Copyright Office. In a press release, Pierce Bainbridge stated it plans to refile the suits in the future, and to “vigorously fight for our clients' rights against those who wrongly take their creations without permission and without compensation.”
Some say the law is on Epic Games’s side, because individual dance moves, unlike choreography, are not protected by copyright laws. But the company may be losing in the court of public opinion. Why shouldn’t these artists get paid? We’ll see how it turns out, but Epic has already shown its willingness to throw its weight around, not just against dance sensations. They’ve even done so against a fellow global powerhouse, Google.
Because of the widespread popularity of “Fortnite,” when Epic Games decided in August 2018 to release a mobile version for Android, it didn’t do so through the Google Play store; it released it directly to consumers without the app-store middleman, cutting Google out of the 30 percent revenue sharing. Epic’s keeping that money for itself. “This sets a precedent,” said Slight. “‘Fortnite’ is the biggest game in the mobile space and it can do as it pleases.”