Ever since Fortnite: Battle Royale launched in 2017, gamers could use the third-person shooter game to battle other players, collect resources and build their own forts to defend against threats. The free game proved to be wildly popular with millions of people playing per month.
However, despite the game’s goal of defending territory, the company behind the magic, Epic Games, might not have been prepared for its biggest threat yet…
The dance world.
Within the game, players can purchase moves for their character (also known as “emotes”) using the Fortnite currency V- bucks (a.k.a. virtual bucks). According to Business Insider, players spend more than $200 million per month in exchange for V-bucks.
So in other words, if you see a character doing “The Carlton Dance” on Fortnite, they probably paid for it.
This didn’t sit too well with Carlton.
Alfonso Ribeiro, who famously played Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is currently suing Fortnite for swiping his dance without him being compensated. According to TMZ, Alfonso’s attorney, David Hecht said, “It is widely recognized that Mr. Ribeiro’s likeness and intellectual property have been misappropriated by Epic Games in the most popular video game currently in the world, ‘Fortnite.'”
He continued, “Epic has earned record profits off of downloadable content in the game, including emotes like “Fresh.” Yet Epic has failed to compensate or even ask permission from Mr. Ribeiro for the use of his likeness and iconic intellectual property.”
Ribeiro is also suing 2K Games, the makers of NBA 2K, for taking his moves for their characters.
Ironically, The Carlton Dance isn’t all the way original. Ribeiro admitted in a 2012 TMZ video that he “stole” the dance, and it’s a combination of Eddie Murphy‘s famous “White Man Dance” and Courteney Cox’s moves in the Bruce Springsteen video “Dancing In The Dark.”
Ribeiro’s lawyer wasn’t about to let this get Fortnite off the hook, however. He told TMZ, “On numerous occasions, Mr. Ribeiro has commented on his inspiration for the dance. In the clip, Mr. Ribeiro used the word ‘stole’ in jest. He did not use the word ‘stole’ in the legal sense.”
Ribeiro is not the only one coming for Fortnite‘s bucks either. As soon as he filed his lawsuit, Backpack Kid, who created the mega-popular “Floss” dance, was revealed to be suing Fortnite. The game also used his dance and his mom filed a lawsuit on behalf of her 16-year-old son. Backpack Kid didn’t seem to be all-the-way angry about the situation, however. “I care about people watching my videos and enjoying them more than I care about money,” he told TMZ.
In the midst of all these lawsuits, Backpack Kid’s mom and Ribeiro probably have one person in particular to thank for leading the movement….Brooklyn rapper 2 Milly.
2 Milly saw his now iconic “Milly Rock” dance in Fortnite a couple of months ago and it wasn’t even called the Milly Rock. It was called “Swipe It” and it was available for purchase for Fortnite characters.
Social media was quick to call out the video game for appropriating the Milly Rock and soon, 2 Milly decided to take legal action against Epic Games. He secured the help of David Hecht (who’s repping all of the dancers so far), and told TMZ in a video, “they took my craft and they sold that. Whatever they made off that specific emote ‘Swipe It,’ that’s what I want.”
With 2 Milly’s legal moves, the dance and hip hop world took notice. Dances that were included in Fortnite, including BlocBoy JB‘s “Shoot” dance, were being called out for not benefiting the originators.
Chance the Rapper took notice of the funky situation months ago, almost prophesying that creatives would come after Fortnite.
“Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes,” Chance wrote in a tweet in July. “Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them.”
It’s not like Fortnite doesn’t have enough funds to share the wealth either. According to Bloomberg, the game is on track to make $2 billion this year, which will make Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney worth $5 billion to $8 billion.
In the words of attorney David Hecht to TMZ, “Epic is enjoying record profits off of downloadable content in ‘Fortnite,’ yet has failed to pay or even ask permission to use artists’ intellectual property and likenesses over many of its popular emote dances.”
He went on to say that his law firm is “proud to stand up for African-American creatives whose expression and likenesses have misappropriated.”
It seems like Fortnite better get fortified.
The dance world is coming for them.