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How Fortnite’s dance moves sparked new lawsuits against Epic Games – TechCrunch

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A growing cluster of actors, musicians and viral internet stars have Fortnite in their crosshairs. The smash hit third-person shooter is free to play but generates mountains of revenue through in-game microtransactions. Those purchased lure avid Fortnite players to spend real life cash on virtual cosmetic items, like special character skins (today: a winter skiing set!) and, most importantly, dance moves.

Now, Fortnite creator Epic Games faces two new lawsuits over dance moves: one from actor Alfonso Ribeiro who played Carlton on 90’s TV hit Fresh Prince of Bel Air and another from the family of Russell Horning, better known as “Backpack Kid,” who created a viral dance called “the Floss.” Horning’s lawsuit also names 2K Sports, maker of NBA 2K, for that game’s depiction of his dance. Earlier in December, rapper 2 Milly filed a lawsuit against Fortnite maker Epic over the game’s depiction of his dance move, the Milly Rock, which the game calls “Swipe it.”

Ribeiro’s lawyer provided TechCrunch with the following statement:

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. Therefore, Mr. Ribeiro is seeking his fair and reasonable share of profits Epic has earned by use of his iconic intellectual property in Fortnite and as a result is requesting through the courts that Epic cease all use of Mr. Ribeiro’s signature dance.

Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP is also pursuing similar claims against Take-Two Interactive and Visual Concepts, developer of the NBA 2K series of video games, on behalf of Mr. Ribeiro.

Fortnite’s in-game dance moves are ubiquitous, both in-game and out — and that’s part of the problem. The game lifted its most popular dance moves from various online viral moments across the internet, TV, movies and music. In most cases the in-game dances are so well loved because they copy their source material so precisely. While the game lifts these dances move for move, making them widely recognizable, it doesn’t refer to the source material directly and renames the dances with generic nicknames. In Fortnite, the “Tidy” dance is Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Like its Hot” dance, “Jubilation” is Elaine’s dance from Seinfeld, “Pure Salt” (not really a dance, some of these are just emotes) is from the Salt Bae meme, Psy’s Gangnam Style dance and so on. In the case of the Carlton dance, Fortnite gives a small nod to the dance’s origins by naming it “Fresh.”

The game draws from a wide pool of source material, but black creators in particular have spoken out about Fortnite’s monetization moves. Black artists have a long history of seeing their work achieve broad mainstream popularity without commercial or credit to accompany it. When Chance the Rapper tweeted about Fortnite’s relationship to black artists in July, BlocBoy JB — creator of the dance the game calls “Hype” — endorsed the idea that artists like himself should be paid if Fortnite is making money from their moves.

Fortnite’s default in-game emote is a dance that actor Donald Faison performs on the show Scrubs, and Faison has also taken notice.

Fortnite’s decision to animate its characters doing popular dance moves in and of itself isn’t new. Overwatch creator and Epic competitor Blizzard includes popular dance emotes in its own multiplayer shooter and before that in multiplayer RPG World of Warcraft. In Blizzard’s case, the depiction of dance moves, some for sale via lootboxes, isn’t quite as on the nose nor does it mine current internet culture as thoroughly.

For example, the Overwatch character Junkrat does a version of the running man dance that looks a lot like a version of the dance by Will Smith’s character on The Fresh Prince. That dance was itself popularized by Janet Jackson in her Rhythm Nation music video.

Other Overwatch dance emotes are drawn from traditional Japanese dance and anime. In Blizzard’s classic game World of Warcraft, the blood elf characters feature dances culled from the movie Napoleon Dynamite and Britney Spears music videos. In World of Warcraft’s case, these moves weren’t for sale in-game — the microtransaction model hadn’t yet really taken off during the game’s heyday.

Epic Games was likely aware that lifting these dance moves and selling them to gamers might cause a stir among some creators, but by that time it was probably already making too much money to care. Notably, the company faced a high profile copycat accusation from the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), a battle royale-style game widely understood to have inspired Fortnite’s gameplay. PUBG dropped the lawsuit in June of this year, likely after a substantial settlement.

Epic also appears to have quietly paid at least one creator to settle a potential legal threat. Dancer Gabby David, who created the Fortnite dance called the “Electro Shuffle,” appears to have settled with Epic Games around a year ago for the game’s depiction of her choreography, according to forum posts and her Twitter account. Epic Games declined to comment to TechCrunch about the details of the settlement.

All three individuals suing Epic Games over Fortnite dances are being represented by intellectual property lawyer David L. Hecht and we’re likely to see more artists and internet stars signing on with Hecht before this is all over. We don’t know Epic’s next move, but as some players have suggested, it would be easy enough for the gamemaker to add some kind of tie-in crediting the creators for their dances. Epic happily partners with entertainment companies and even the NFL for sure to be lucrative in-game promotional crossovers, so it’s tough to say something like this would be out of place in the game.

Given the complexity of copyright law and the fact that none of the individuals holds copyright of their respective dances, it’s not clear if any of the latest legal action against Fortnite’s creators will hold water. Still, given its deep pockets — Epic just raised a $1.25 billion round two months ago — settling a handful of small lawsuits over the game’s well-loved dance emotes is a small price to pay for Fortnite’s colossal success.



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The Dodge M80 Was A Throwback Truck Concept Ahead Of Its Time

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If Fisher-Price made combat vehicles in World War II, it might look like the Dodge M80 concept. The M80 was a retro-inspired vehicle in the same way that the PT Cruiser and Plymouth Prowler harkened back to the old days of motoring. Although unlike the PT Cruiser and the poor Prowler, the M80 didn’t make anyone who looked at it think cars in general were a bad idea. 

As reported by Canadian Driver in 2002, the Dodge M80’s exterior was entirely new, but it had familiar bones as it was based on the Dodge Dakota and was powered by a 3.7-liter 210-horsepower V6. With an estimated weight of just 2,500 pounds, it would have been a featherweight next to other trucks at the time. For comparison, a Ford Ranger from the same year had a curb weight of 3,085 pounds (via Edmunds). Where the M80 really shined was its proposed simplicity and capability. The interior was spartan and therefore easy to clean. Pictures of the concept show compartments galore, including a rear window that allowed either access to the bed while in the truck or effectively lengthened the truck bed. GMC is currently putting a similar feature to use in the EV version of the Sierra.

The Dodge M80 unfortunately never came to pass. As such, it was not able to breath life into the floundering compact truck market at the beginning of the new Millenium. Fortunately, the future is bright for small trucks with the introduction of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz. 

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Why You Need To Use Google Chrome’s Enhanced Safe Browsing Mode

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First, the basics. Activating Enhanced Safe Browsing in Chrome is a simple process: just click Settings, scroll to Privacy And Security > Safe Browsing, and select the Enhanced option. The importance of Enhanced Safe Browsing is a somewhat longer story. In short, no security is foolproof, and Google has historically erred on the side of making simple, accessible tools for consumers. Incognito Mode in particular is allegedly considered a bit of a joke over at Google HQ; some users are even suing over its limitations.

By contrast, Enhanced Safe Browsing focuses on the security holes hackers are most likely to exploit. Per Google, Enhanced Safe Browsing uses multiple strategies to guarantee user safety: it checks websites against a constantly updated list of unsafe locations, examines unusual URLs for potential phishing scams, and inspects downloads for dangerous or corrupted files. It even takes a sampling of potential threats a given user has encountered and syncs it with their Google Account, allowing for personalized security focused on the risks that the user is most likely to face. All this happens in real time, as the user goes about their browsing session.

Note that Enhanced Safe Browsing’s real-time service means sending more user data to Google than browsing in normal or Incognito Mode. That’s a concern worth being aware of: big companies have security breaches, too, and are by no means universally trustworthy when it comes to user data. That said, participating in the digital world more or less requires users to operate within the ecosystem of one of a handful of large companies. If your home or office is a Google shop, Enhanced Safe Browsing is unquestionably the most secure option available.

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Musk Announces Twitter Ad Sharing Program For Creators, But There’s A Big Catch

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While Musk’s plan for ad revenue sharing sure sounds like a desperate attempt to lure creators as well as advertisers onto the platform, there’s a huge caveat. Only accounts subscribed to the Twitter Blue service will be eligible for an ad money cut. In a nutshell, if you seek to make money from reply section ads, you will first have to pay a sum of $8 per month to the company.

Musk also clarified that legacy verified accounts will have to pay for a Twitter Blue subscription in order to retain the blue check mark and command a cut from ads popping up in their reply sections. He has previously stated that a Twitter Blue subscription will be mandatory for retaining the coveted blue tick following a grace period.

“Twitter’s legacy Blue Verified is unfortunately deeply corrupted, so will sunset in a few months,” he wrote earlier this week. However, Musk’s announcement hasn’t really won a lot of fans. Plus, it also portends that ads will soon be a commonplace in the replies, opening a whole new universe for spammy ads and making it an even less desirable place to look for meaningful user interactions.

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