Two more voices have joined the case against Epic Games, bringing more allegations of intellectual property theft. In this case, the people in question are Alfonso Ribeiro, best known for his role as Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the infamous Backpack Kid.
Filed yesterday, the complaints are aimed not only at Epic, but also at 2K Games, the company behind the NBA 2K series. Both parties allege that 2K also includes dances related to Ribeiro and Backpack Kid without their permission. Law firm Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, which is representing both people, is also representing rapper Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson. 2 Milly got this particular litigious ball rolling when he sued Epic over its apparent use of his signature dance, the Milly Rock.
According to the law firm:
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. 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.
The difference between this dance — used in-game as the “Fresh” emote — and the Milly Rock is that this one is directly purchasable from the Item Store in-game. The Milly Rock “Swipe It” emote could be obtained via the Season 5 Battle Pass, meaning that, with a little bit of inelegant wriggling, Epic might be able to get away with saying it wasn’t profiting directly from the use of the Milly Rock. That’s not the case with Ribeiro’s dance.
The other plaintiff is Backpack Kid, whose fierce arm-and-hip sway made it into the game as the “Floss” emote. According to TMZ, Backpack Kid’s mother filed the lawsuit on behalf of her now-16-year-old son. The young man originally told TMZ in a video interview that, while he believed he should be compensated for the use of his dance, he was just happy to have it included.
When I looked into the issue, I discovered several people who were annoyed about the fact that Epic apparently took their moves without compensation. Besides 2 Milly, I found instances of Donald “Turk” Faison, Blocboy JB, and Marlon Webb each complaining about how their dances appeared in Fortnite without their knowledge or consent. What at first seemed like just a complaint from 2 Milly turned out to be the key to a Pandora’s box full of dances uncomfortably close to moves made recognizable by people who weren’t getting a dime from the company.
In all three suits, the plaintiffs appear to be requesting that the dances no longer be included in the games, so it’s possible Epic may have to remove the emotes at some point in the future.