It hasn't been a particularly jolly December for Fortnite developer Epic Games. The studio is being sued by multiple interested parties thanks to Fortnite's liberal use of dance in-game emotes, many of which have been based on popular moves created by members of the music, television, or film industries.
Fortnite is still one of the most successful games on the planet, and continues to rake in enough cash that Epic Games felt comfortable launching its own digital distribution platform earlier this month. That hasn't prevented Fortnite from running into issues across many different industries and professions, ranging from a Fortnite ban in the NHL to a controversial banning in China thanks to its depictions of violence. While those problems remained external to Fortnite on some level, however, the new rash of lawsuits are affecting Epic Games directly.
The first person to sue Epic Games was rapper 2 Milly, whose Milly Rock dance was imported into the game under the name of Swipe It and then sold for $5. That lawsuit began in mid-November, and has since been succeeded by two other high-profile litigations. Alfonoso Ribeiro, better known as Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, filed a lawsuit over the game's use of the Carlton Dance that he alleges was used without his permission. A day later, Russel Horning, who is known online as Backpack Kid, had his mother file a lawsuit on his behalf for Fortnite incorporating the Floss into its in-game emotes, a dance that Horning popularized.
Given the plethora of borrowed dances and emotes that exist within Fortnite already, it's likely that these lawsuits are actually just the precursor to a slew of others. Now that it's public knowledge that these legal accusations are being entertained seriously, it wouldn't be surprising to see more cases come forward, especially since it appears that Epic Games rarely, if ever, asked for permission to use the dance emotes it included in Fortnite. The Pure Salt emote, for instance, is clearly inspired by Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, while the Phone It In dance is based on Sergey Stepanov, better known as the Epic Sax Guy.
Obviously, this is a problem that Epic Games would have rather avoided, but its unclear just how big an impact these lawsuits will have on Fortnite's bottom line. All of the performers who have sued the company thus far don't actually own a copyright to their dances, which is one of the more difficult steps in claiming ownership. That could certainly influence the way these lawsuits proceed. Beyond that, though, the game also remains one of the most popular multiplayer franchises in the world, and with the launch of the Epic Games Store, it appears like that's set to remain the case for years to come.