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Another artist sues Epic Games over Fortnite emotes

Thanks to the strict definitions of US copyright law, Epic Games managed to temporarily dodge multiple infringement lawsuits surrounding the emotes within Fortnite: Battle Royale. That hasn’t stopped yet another artist from coming forward with a new twist on the case, this time claiming misappropriation of identity.

Cases including Alfonso Ribeiro’s Carlton dance, 2 Milly’s Milly Rock and the Backpack Kid’s Floss all framed their filing under copyright infringement, targeting the fact that Epic Games was profiting off the moves these individuals supposedly created without crediting their source of origin. In light of their failure without the dances being recognised by the US Copyright Office, Too Many Zooz saxophonist Leo Pellegrino is taking a different route.

Represented by the same firm as his predecessors, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, Pellegrino is claiming that an emote called “Phone It In” uses “trademark moves” that “have become inseparable from his persona and his life story.” In a filing to a Pennsylvanian court obtained by The Verge, the whole case is instead centred on misappropriation of likeness.

Pellegrino’s distinct performance at the BBC Proms in 2017 is specifically used as evidence in the lawsuit, which outlines his “duck-footed” movements, “energetic performances” and “outward pointing feet” as signature aspects to his identity.

“There is no other saxophonist who moves like Leo P. and no doubt that Epic sought to exploit his likeness and signature movement for profit in Fortnite,” explains lead counsel David L. Hecht. “While Fortnite has very recently started to work with talent like Marshmello and Weezer, implicitly acknowledging the importance of licensing intellectual property it wishes to use, it has continued to ignore the rights of a bevy of performers it blatantly copied, including Leo P.”

This claim isn’t necessarily true, as a number of comparisons have been drawn between the emote and performances from Moldovan musician Sergey Stepanov. Regardless of where Epic’s inspiration came from, the publisher has yet another lawsuit to try and bat away if the courts don’t reject the claims.

KitGuru Says: So far, Epic Games has not been found in breach of any laws, but it doesn’t stop certain efforts from being deemed as morally questionable. How do you feel about Pellegrino’s moves compared to the Phone It In emote?

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