SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which two former University of Maryland basketball players accused men of the video game Fortnite of embezzling a dance move that made ex-teammates popular.
US District Judge Paul Grimm in Maryland ruled on Friday that the Copyright Act excludes claims Jared Nickens and Jaylen Brantley filed against Epic Games Inc., the creator of the wildly popular online shooter, in February 2019.
Nickens and Brantley claimed the Cary, North Carolina-based company darkened their identities by digitally copying the ‘Running Man Challenge’ dance they performed in social media videos and on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ in 2016.
In their copyright infringement lawsuit, it was claimed that the ‘Running Man’ dance ’emote’ that Fortnite players can purchase for their characters is identical to the one that Nickens and Brantley wrote by name.
The most important question, according to the judge, is whether plaintiffs have a claim that is ‘qualitatively different’ from the rights protected by the Copyright Act.
And here’s the claimant’s claim based on Epic Games allegedly ‘capturing and digitally copying the Running Man dance’ to create the Fortnite emote that ‘enables the player’s avatars to run the Running Man the same way as the version of Plaintiffs. “” Rights protected by the Copyright Act, “he wrote.
Brantley of Springfield, Massachusetts and Nickens of Monmouth Junction, N.J., claimed over $ 5 million in damages.
Epic Games spokesman Nick Chester declined to comment on the judge’s ruling on Monday.
Festive dances in Fortnite are called ’emotes’. While the game itself is free to play, players can purchase the ’emotes’ and other character customizations.
Other artists, including Brooklyn-based rapper 2 Milly and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ star Alfonso Ribeiro, have also sued Epic Games for other dances portrayed in the shooting game. Ribeiro ended his lawsuit against Epic Games last year after the U.S. Copyright Office denied him copyright for the ‘Carlton’ dance his character performed in the 1990s sitcom.
Nickens and Brantley appeared on the DeGeneres talk show along with two New Jersey high school students who posted videos of the dance online before the two University of Maryland basketball players filmed their own version. Brantley told DeGeneres that Nickens first showed him the dance in a video on Instagram.
“We dance in front of our teammates in the locker room every day,” said Brantley. “We were like, ‘Hey, let’s make a video and make everyone laugh.'”
One of their dance videos has millions of views on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, their lawsuit said.
The judge dismissed the claims of their lawsuit for breaches of privacy, unfair competition and unlawful enrichment based on pre-emption rights under the Copyright Act. He also threw out their trademark claims, claiming to accuse the company of unfair competition and “false designation of origin” under the Lanham Act.
Claimants are attempting to place the same square pin in eight round holes looking for a cause for action against Epic Games for using the Running Man dance in their game of Fortnite. But claimants ‘claims that Epic Games copied the dance do not support any of their theories,’ the judge wrote.
Prosecutors attorney Richard Jaklitsch said his clients may not be able to pay the cost of appealing the court’s ruling. He said it seems “un-American” that the company “benefits from the backs of” Nickens and Brantley.
Epic can still go a step further and do the right thing. Epic can still get up and acknowledge what these kids have done, ”he said.
Nickens played professional basketball in Canada, and Brantley worked as a sports agent last year, according to Jaklitsch.
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