Two former University of Maryland basketball players are suing Fortnite creator, Epic Games, over the use of the “Running Man” dance, The Verge reported.
Last year, Epic added the “Running Man” emoji to Fortnite, so players can have their characters do the dance. Now, Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Epic Games Inc. is using a dance they popularized online.
Back in 2016, the two helped make the “Running Man Challenge” go viral, as reported by Sports Illustrated.
According to The Verge, Brantley and Nickens say they created the “distinctive and immediately recognizable dance” and it’s “synonymous” with them.
Brantley and Nickens accused Epic of copyright infringement and say the publisher “has consistently sought to exploit African-American talent, in particular in Fortnite, by copying their dances and movement.”
This isn’t the first time Epic has been targeted by lawsuits over Fortnite dances. Rapper BlocBoy JB sued over its “shoot” dance emoji and rapper 2 Milly sued over the “Milly Rock” emoji. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on “The Fresh Prince,” sued the company for using the “Carlton Dance” in their game as well.
Although you could probably argue a specific person popularized a dance, these legal battles can become complicated. Typically, only choreography can be copyrighted. In addition, even if the dance itself does have a copyright, it’s not clear who owns it.
For example, although Ribeiro might be the face people associate with the “Carlton Dance,” the US Copyright Office said his dance might be owned by a network.
Unfortunately, this lawsuit probably won’t go far, because Brantley previously alluded to the fact that they didn’t actually create the dance.
Brantley once told Sports Illustrated, “Jared [Nickens] came up to me and was like, hey, let me show you something. Some kid he knew from Jersey was doing the dance to that song. We were like hey let’s just make a funny video and try to make people laugh.”
Still, the continued lawsuits against Epic Games raise valuable points about how Black people’s expressions — in this case, dance — becomes profit for somebody else, without Black people themselves benefitting.