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It’s Complicated! ‘Fortnite’ dance moves at the centre of legal drama…again

Fortnite dance moves are once again at the centre of a legal dispute, this time in a copyright case brought forward by choreographer Kyle Hanagami.

Fortnite dance moves have played an essential role in capturing and holding the attention of the game’s impressively large player base. In Fortnite, players can customise their avatars by purchasing unique characters, costumes, and Fortnite dance moves.

These purchases are used to offset the cost of updating the game, which is offered to gamers for free. This free-to-play model, alongside in-game purchases, has turned Fortnite into a massive financial success for Epic Games. It’s also made it particularly popular with a younger audience.

kyle hanagami fornite
Image: Kyle Hanagami / Facebook

One way Epic Games have managed to remain part of the cultural narrative is through their live-service updates. Essentially, Epic Games create partnerships with whatever happens to be hot right now.

If a musical artist is releasing a new album, then Fortnite will host an in-game concert. If a dance challenge is popping off on TikTok they’ll create new Fortnite dance moves.

It’s all part of maintaining the game’s relevance and position within the market. However, it’s also about lining their pockets with as much money as possible.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; as long as everyone involved agrees to it in the first place. Which unfortunately, according to popular dance choreographer Kyle Hanagami (Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, NSYNC), hasn’t always been the case.

On March 29, lawyers representing Hanagami brought legal action against Epic Games for the unlawful use of the choreographer’s original dance moves. The Fortnite dance move in question is the ‘It’s Complicated’ emote, which shares similarities with Hanagami’s viral video (set to the music of Charlie Puth’s How Long).

This isn’t actually the first time a lawsuit has been brought against Epic Games for copyright infringement relating to Fortnite dance moves. In 2018, Alfonso Ribeiro argued Fortnite used his iconic dance moves from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to profit, while cutting him out entirely.

In that case the judge ruled the dance in question hadn’t been copyrighted, and was therefore not the property of Ribeiro. In this case, Hanagami has copyrighted his dance routine.

We’ll have to wait to see how this one plays out. Stay tuned for updates!