you can dance if you want to, that'll be $9.50 please
December 6, 2018 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Rapper 2 Milly is suing Epic Games for including his signature dance moves in Fortnite without his permission.

The dance "emote" based off of 2 Milly's "Milly Rock" dance, renamed "Swipe It" in Fortnite, is an unlockable feature that costs approximately $9.50 to purchase. Chance the Rapper and other performers have previously criticized Epic Games for profiting from dances created by black artists without compensating or crediting them.
posted by prize bull octorok (39 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Haha wow. They have to know they’re exploitive dicks, right?
posted by schadenfrau at 2:43 PM on December 6 [6 favorites]


Land of 1000 Lawsuits
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:47 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


Oh man, and if you type "Milly Rock dance" into YouTube, well...
posted by gwint at 2:57 PM on December 6


I am here for the surprise Bette Midler connection.
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:57 PM on December 6


The first episode of Anil Dash's podcast has a really fantastic rundown of all the issues, along with an interview with 2 Milly.
posted by mathowie at 3:22 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Didn't WoW do this first but without the micro transactions?
posted by Gwynarra at 3:27 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


For all the cash that that money printing game generates they could easily pay to licence these dance emotes and garner themselves a ton of goodwill. I will be sure to follow the long running and acrimonious court proceedings in which Epic spends far more on the lawsuit than paying for the emotes would have cost them. Because capitalism.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 3:30 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


This is a little silly but I'm glad someone is doing this - I hope he seriously pushes for a judgement and doesn't settle for some token money.

Although having taken one whole credit class in IP law (thus making me a world expert) part of the challenge is proving that you are indeed the inventor. I think Fortnight is clearly making money off of other people's work, the challenge is going to be proving that it's solely your dance and that someone else wasn't doing it first.

On the plus side, if the principle of willful infringement comes into play then man Fortnight is going to get treble hammered.
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


You know, that dance wasn't as safe as it was made out to be.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:32 PM on December 6 [5 favorites]


Seems like if you successfully could sue for someone else using you dance moves, Hank Ballard would have had like a trillion dollars.

Although on digging into the wiki pages, seems like he was inspired to write the song by some kids in Florida doing the dance, so perhaps my example isn't the best.

On edit: Those Florida kids should get the trillion dollars.
posted by sideshow at 3:45 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Everyone who has ever made money is making it off the backs of shared cultural heritage and other people's work. If we strive to create a culture where it is impossible to do anything without attaching intellectual property payments to it, that's a great way of reaching the full potential of Orwellian dystopia, where only those who can afford it are allowed to have thoughts at all. I think we can create a more equitable future by eliminating intellectual property entirely than by codifying it in laws where the rich have all the advantage.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 3:50 PM on December 6 [7 favorites]


Everyone who has ever made money is making it off the backs of shared cultural heritage and other people's work.

Bullshit. This is a horrible, anti-labor position that tries to discount the actual hard work and labor put into creating something by saying "you didn't build that yourself, so you have no right to benefit from the labor you did put in."
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:57 PM on December 6 [24 favorites]


This is not an anti-labor position, but a pro-innovation position. I am a knowledge worker and I need to benefit from my labor, but I would rather have unfettered access to our shared culture than a legal framework protecting my ability to make money because I recognize that the capitalist rent-seeking class is better positioned to exploit those laws to suck all the benefits of my labor up for themselves.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:04 PM on December 6 [10 favorites]


/moonwalks slowly to the door.
posted by furtive at 4:04 PM on December 6 [6 favorites]


Why wouldn’t they license the dance moves in the first place? Then they could call the moves by their names as well as attract fans of 2 Milly. Seems like a win-win. Then again, I’m not a gaming executive, so what do I know?
posted by TedW at 4:07 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


I would rather have unfettered access to our shared culture than a legal framework protecting my ability to make money

I don't really have non-snarky things to say about this, so I'll just say: I think you and a number of other commenters are missing or ignoring a crucial point of this debate, which is that this is, in addition to just stealing, also a form of Digital Blackface.

Digital Blackface in Gifs / Videos
Fornite Copyright Discussion / Cultural issues
posted by opinions at 4:15 PM on December 6 [13 favorites]


I will need to think about the digital blackface issue, because what Epic has done, now and prior to this, doesn't sit well with me. But I am sincere in my position that the greatest enemy is media megacorps buying up intellectual property rights and technology megacorporations buying out their competitors, amassing huge portfolios of patents and copyrights that then exploit network effects to keep small-scale innovators either suppressed or subservient.

I recognize that there are contradictory considerations here, and would love to hear opposing non-snarky responses that are sensitive to that.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:24 PM on December 6 [8 favorites]


Bullshit. This is a horrible, anti-labor position that tries to discount the actual hard work and labor put into creating something by saying "you didn't build that yourself, so you have no right to benefit from the labor you did put in."

The person most famous for something or who popularizes it isn't necessarily the one who invented it either. Like Michael Jackson is the person you think of with the "Thriller" dance moves, but he had a choreographer - Michael Peters. Who would be the one to sue Epic there? Peters' estate or Jackson's estate? Do the estates even have standing versus a living creator?
posted by GuyZero at 4:31 PM on December 6 [6 favorites]


There's a big difference between "We must track down the descendants of Homer and compensate them for sales of The Odyssey" and "no prob my corporate brahs let's just take something somebody made a few years ago and sell it" and copyright minimalism which attempts to elide that difference is not to the benefit of the creators.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 PM on December 6 [13 favorites]


Gwynarra, that’s awesome! I’ve never seen all of the WoW dances compiled. I got to the Ghost Wolf dance and LOLed!

I wonder if WoW licensed those dances, because they horked them from pretty much every corner of the globe.
posted by darkstar at 5:39 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Hopefully he'd win the "right of publicity" part of the case if he could show that they deliberately based the dance on him personally, which from the articles sounds likely. On the other hand, extending copyright to a couple of seconds of physical movement seems... excessive. I bet you could find older 2-second dance moves that are similar enough for Milly Rock to be treated as derivative, and then where do you stop?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:51 PM on December 6


I mean, seems to me that this is another case of white people outright stealing and profiting off black culture. People are devaluing the thought and labor 2 Milly put into his dance because... what, it's a silly dance? It's short because he's adapted it to the needs of the era (short, recognizable/memeable movements). It doesn't sit right to me to have people say "choreographers deserve credit except for this specific dance form most commonly used by rappers, young people and black creatives, because that doesn't count for Reasons."

Dancers deserve to have their work respected and acknowledged, just like any other creative. And this isn't some kid on Youtube, this is a multibillion-dollar corporation who've made massive profits out of silly things like these dances. Fortnite was able to cash in on the Battle Royale craze because Epic built it so quickly, and they couldn't have done that without being derivative and in this case outright stealing other people's work.
posted by storytam at 6:16 PM on December 6 [8 favorites]


extending copyright to a couple of seconds of physical movement seems... excessive. I bet you could find older 2-second dance moves that are similar enough for Milly Rock to be treated as derivative, and then where do you stop?

Ars Technica did a rundown on US copyright on choreography & this is a consideration in the law:
just as common words and phrases are not subject to copyright, "individual movements or dance steps by themselves are not copyrightable, such as the basic waltz step, the hustle step, the grapevine, or the second position in classical ballet."

As Foley Hoag Associate Alyssa Clarke wrote last year, "allowing these building blocks to be protected could chill creativity and innovation."
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 7:22 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


To be clear, if we started allowing copyright on body movements, the winners would not be individual artists that create these moves. Instead we would see label contracts include perpetual ownership of physical movements by the artists they signed... And if these are copyrights (instead of say, a patent) the copyrights would last 70+ years after the death of the creator (for now, until that gets extended again). And we could rightfully expect large multinationals issuing take-down notices on youtube videos featuring cute toddlers, silly teenagers, and others.

Yes, this might be exploitative of the artists the create these moves. And if fortnight had any PR sense about them they'd license the name of the artists the created these moves and toss them a bit of cash for using their names.

But expansion of our already totally fucked copyright regime into physical movements would be to further cede control of our culture to Disney large multinational corporations.

I'm all for trying to shame Fortnight into licensing and acknowledging the names of artists they are copying from, but holy hell lets not making our current copyright dystopia even worse.
posted by el io at 9:09 PM on December 6 [17 favorites]


This feels to me also like something that's probably not quite right and yet probably ought not to be quite against the law, simply because the boundaries are too intangible? But it's also possible that there are pieces I'm missing.
posted by atoxyl at 10:05 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Though honestly I know very little about how copyright is applied to choreography and how dancers think about it. I habitually frame things in terms of music (where I do know a bit about the case law, and have opinions about what it should be).
posted by atoxyl at 10:17 PM on December 6


He's suing for money because the legal system and cash are the only language we speak. But these systems aren't up to the task. They can't hold the complexity.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:51 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


Dancers deserve to have their work respected and acknowledged, just like any other creative.

Agreed! But respect and acknowledgement is not copyright!

And this isn't some kid on Youtube, this is a multibillion-dollar corporation who've made massive profits out of silly things like these dances

Problem is that the law doesn't discriminate. If Epic are legally required to pay 2 Milly, then every kid in youtube will have to as well. Something about the rich and the poor both being forbidden from sleeping under bridges and stealing bread in the law's majestic equality.
posted by Dysk at 3:07 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


extending copyright to a couple of seconds of physical movement seems... excessive.

The implications for pornhub.com could be significant.
posted by sfenders at 4:47 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


They also totally copied Techno Viking
posted by Damienmce at 6:40 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


If 2 Milly can prove that they mocapped his video, or otherwise used it directly in production, I think he's got a good case and it wouldn't extend copyright law dangerously. If someone's independent recreation of the moves is copyrighted... yeah, that's not really a road I want to go down.
posted by tavella at 8:02 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


“Swipe It”

I think Epic knew exactly what they were doing, and will expect to pay off 2 Milly with hand-waving and "publicity"
posted by chavenet at 8:14 AM on December 7


They seem to have copied a bunch of dance moves, including this dance from Scrubs. It looks like it's been mocapped but i'm not a specialist.
posted by trif at 8:16 AM on December 7




Monkey see, monkey violate federal copyright law.
posted by sfenders at 8:40 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


Motion capture looks like this.

So either they're hiring dancers and doing motion capture or their animators are roto-scoping videos like the Scrubs one linked above, no?
posted by Evstar at 8:46 AM on December 7


I'm assuming you can do a crude mo-cap with software, rather than having to manually trace every frame as in rotoscoping. ID points on an image and have the software follow them. But either way, if they are using the actual performance video directly, that definitely seems like something that could reasonably be covered under copyright, without getting into the weeds of copyrighting specific human movements.
posted by tavella at 9:45 AM on December 7


I mean, it seems pretty unlikely that Milly ran the opening image of his music video featuring said dance move past the Kubrick estate, so I'm not exactly real thrilled about whatever precedent this suit might set
posted by halation at 3:56 PM on December 7


But expansion of our already totally fucked copyright regime into physical movements would be to further cede control of our culture to Disney large multinational corporations.

Choreography has been copyrightable in the United States since 1978, when the 1976 Copyright Act became effective.
posted by jedicus at 8:28 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


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