The US Supreme Court has ruled that plaintiffs suing for copyright infringement – such as the numerous artists suing Epic for using their dances in Fortnite – cannot file for damages if their work has not been registered with the US Copyright Office.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro and Rapper 2 Milly recently filed lawsuits against Epic Games for replicating and selling their dance moves in Fortnite. 2 Milly said Epic "took his craft and sold it as their own", and while he’s "not trying to ruin the game for anyone", he wants the "Swipe It" dance removed and fair compensation.
In a motion to dismiss the suit by 2 Milly, Epic’s attorney Dale Cendali maintains dance moves cannot be "owned" as there’s no precedent case law a copyrighting choreography, and patents for individual dance moves cannot be made to the US Copyright Office due to creative choreographic expression.
"The Plaintiff’s lawsuit is fundamentally at odds with free speech principles as it attempts to impose liability, and thereby chill creative expression, by claiming rights that do not exist under the law," wrote Cendali on Epic’s behalf. "No one can own a dance step. Copyright law is clear that individual dance steps and simple dance routines are not protected by copyright, but rather are building blocks of free expression, which are in the public domain for choreographers, dancers, and the general public to use, perform, and enjoy."
Interestingly, Ribeiro was recently refused copyright of the Carlton dance when the US Copyright Office said it "must refuse registration because the work submitted for registration is a simple dance routine".
Now, further to the ruling of Fourth Estate Pub. Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC (thanks, PCGN), The Hollywood Reporter reports Ribeiro, 2 Milly – as well as Orange Shirt Kid and The Backpack Kid – have now all voluntarily dropped their lawsuits. The law firm that represents them, however, says it is a "purely procedural" matter and that all suits will be re-filed once the plaintiffs have completed their Copyright Office registrations.
"We will continue to vigorously fight for our clients’ rights against those who wrongly take their creations without permission and without compensation," attorney David Hecht said.