A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from University of Maryland men’s basketball players Jared Nickens, Jaylen Brantley who accused that Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, misappropriated a dance move that the ex-teammates popularized.
U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm in Maryland ruled Friday that the Copyright Act preempts claims filed by the pair back in February 2019 against Epic Games Inc..
Nickens and Brantley claim that Epic Games misappropriated their identities by digitally copying the “Running Man Challenge” dance that they performed in social media videos and on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2016, using it in their popular Fortnite game.
The lawsuit claimed that Fortnite’s ‘Running Man’ emote, which players can purchase for their playable characters within the game, is identical that the two claim that they created.
U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm in Maryland said the key question is whether plaintiffs have a claim that is “qualitatively different” from the rights protected by the Copyright Act.
“And here Plaintiffs claim is based on Epic Games allegedly ‘capturing and digitally copying’ the Running Man dance to create the Fortnite emote that ‘allows the player’s avatars to execute the Running Man identically to Plaintiffs’ version. This is squarely within the rights protected by the Copyright Act,'” he wrote, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN).
The judge dismissed their lawsuit’s claims for invasion of privacy, unfair competition and unjust enrichment based on preemption under the Copyright Act, and also dismissed their trademark claims and claims that accused Epic Game of unfair competition and “false designation or origin” under the Lanham Act.
“Plaintiffs seek to place the same square peg into eight round holes in search of a cause of action against Epic Games for its use of the Running Man dance in its game Fortnite. But Plaintiffs’ claims that Epic Games copied the dance do not support any of their theories,” the judge wrote.
Fortnite is not only one of the most popular video games in the world, but also at the center of the most popular Twitch channels as well, and has maintained that status for a few years despite competition from similar games such as Call of Duty and Apex Legends.