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Fortnite dance lawsuits dismissed after new Supreme Court ruling

The creators will have to wait for copyrights on their dances for the suits to move forward

Fortnite’s Orange Justice dance
Epic Games via Polygon
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Law firm Pierce Brainridge has dismissed five of its copyright lawsuits against Epic Games over dances in Fortnite, it announced in a news release. The decision to dismiss the suits comes as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v., which changes the traditional understanding of process in copyright suits.

“Previously, plaintiffs could file copyright infringement lawsuits as soon as they applied for a registration with the Copyright Office. Now, plaintiffs have to wait for the Copyright Office to act on that application before filing suit, which, as a result of its backlog, can sometimes take many months,” Pierce Brainridge said in its statement about the lawsuits.

Because the suits were originally filed immediately after the plaintiffs applied for copyrights on the dances, all have been dismissed for the time being. If the law firm’s plaintiffs — which include Alfonso Ribeiro, “Orange Shirt Kid,” Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson, James “BlocBoyJB” Baker, and Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning — receive copyright of the dances from the US Copyright Office, then the suits will be refiled.

There’s no guarantee that the US Copyright Office will actually approve the registrations, however. The process for copyrighting dance moves in the US is extremely murky. According to US law, you can’t actually copyright a dance move — only fully choreographed routines. The difficulty is that there’s really nothing to say what the dividing line is between the two. While some of the filings may qualify as choreographed routines, others might not. It’s up for the Copyright Office to decide how this affects Fortnite and its popular dance emotes going forward.

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