Fortnite is full of dance moves and costumes based on memes and properties, but every now and then developer Epic Games runs into trouble when content in their game is accused of being taken from elsewhere. In court documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, details have emerged of a new legal scandal involving one of the game’s dance moves and a pumpkin head costume.
The strange detail here, though, is that Epic actually bought the rights to the dance–but they’ve been accused of copyright infringement over the effect of pairing the dance with certain costume elements. Furthermore, Epic Games are actually the plantiffs in this case, seeking to have the court declare that they are not committing infringement.
Matthew Geiler, who responded to the lawsuit through his company Sick Picnic Media, sold Epic Games the rights to the dance in the video below for $10,000. Geiler believes that Epic Games is using his likeness without permission, though, as the Halloween ‘Fortnitemares’ event allowed the player to dress their character up in a pumpkin head and performing the dance with it on.
The argument put forward by Epic Games’ lawyer, Dale Cendali, is that there are no similarities between the jack-o-lantern costume available to players and Geiler’s own, and that the concept of a person with a carved pumpkin for a face did not originate with Geiler, and is essentially public domain. Because of this, the elements of Geiler’s video beyond the dance do not warrant copyright protection.
Epic Games has good reason to be careful, as they’ve been sued before over dance routines. Suits were filed by “Backpack Kid” and Alfonso Ribeiro, among others. All of these suits were eventually dropped. Epic Games seeks a judgment of non-infringement plus legal costs. You can view the full lawsuit filing in The Hollywood Reporter’s original article.
A special Fortnite announcement is anticipated during this week’s Game Awards.