Rapper 2 Milly Sues Epic Games for Lifting His Dance Routine in 'Fortnite'

Four years after the "Milly Rock" became a phenomenon, the rapper asserts being exploited by in-game purchases that allow Fortnite users to emote the moves.
Courtesy of Epic Games

2 Milly, the rapper born Terrence Ferguson, has filed a copyright lawsuit against Epic Games alleging misappropriation of his dance routine in Fortnite. According to the complaint filed in California, those who play the video game can purchase highly recognizable dance emotes. 2 Milly considers this to be exploitation.

Copyright law does allow choreography to be protected, so long as works are fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed. The U.S. Copyright Office has provided guidance that frowns upon registration of "social dance steps and simple routines."

Nevertheless, choreography and pantomime are rarely registered, and few dance artists have ever sued for infringement.

That could be changing. The lawsuit from 2 Milly comes weeks after another rapper, Big Freedia, filed a complaint against her former choreographer.

According to the newest complaint (read here), 2 Milly only made an application for copyright registration on Tuesday — four years after he released "Milly Rock," a rap that celebrates the dance routine he says he created years earlier. The video of the song exploded in popularity and had others including Rihanna, Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa posting on social media themselves performing the dance.

Fortnite is itself a highly popular game, which is free, but allows in-game purchases where users can customize their appearance.

"Upon information and belief, Epic creates emotes by copying and coding dances and movements directly from popular videos, movies, and television shows without consent," states the complaint. "Epic does so by coding still frames of the source material. For example, upon and information and belief, Epic coded the 'Ride the Pony' emote, frame-by-frame, from the 'Gangnam Style' dance made famous by the Korean entertainer, Psy. The Ride the Pony emote and Psy's dance are identical in every respect."

The complaint, which also includes a claim for violation of the right of publicity, details other dance emotes in the game allegedly sourced to famous routines.

"Epic has consistently sought to exploit African-American talent in particular in Fortnite by copying their dances and movements," writes Carolynn Beck, the attorney for 2 Milly. "Epic has copied the dances and movements of numerous African-American performers, including, for example, the dance from the 2004 Snoop Dogg music video, 'Drop It Like It’s Hot' (named the 'Tidy' emote), Alfonso Ribeiro’s performance of his famous 'Carlton' dance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air television show (named the 'Fresh' emote), the dance performed by Will Smith on the same television show (named the 'Rambunctious' emote), the dance in Marlon Webb’s popular 'Band of the Bold' video (named the 'Best Mates' emote), Donald Faison’s signature dance seen on the NBC television show Scrubs (named the 'Dance Moves' emote), and, most pertinent here, Terrence Ferguson’s Milly Rock dance."

2 Milly asserts his dance is known as "Swipe It" in the game. He is seeking an injunction and monetary damages.