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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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M1 MacBook Pro with 8GB, 16GB RAM show surprising benchmark results

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Apple’s M1 Silicon has definitely been hogging the computing news spotlight these past weeks, most of them comparing its performance with Intel’s chips. Not all M1 Macs are the same, of course, and not just counting the difference between an M1 MacBook Air and an M1 MacBook Pro. Even the MacBook Pro (Late 2020) offers two slightly different models with different RAM capacities. Thankfully, someone took the time to benchmark these two variants, and the results might surprise you a bit.

It’s probably logical to assume that an M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM will outperform one with only 8GB of RAM and that may be true in some cases. It is, however, a simplistic view which could end up literally costing you when you decide which model to pick. Even benchmark tests don’t give the full picture and you have to take them into context.

YouTube channel Max Tech puts these two M1-powered MacBook Pros through a series of tests and, depending on what’s being tested, the performance difference between the two isn’t that stark. For activities that require more memory, like exporting an 8K R3D RAW to 4K, it’s only natural that the 16GB RAM configuration would finish faster. For more CPU-intensive tasks, however, the 8GB RAM model isn’t that far behind.

The real loser in these tests, unsurprisingly, is Intel once again. The benchmarks put an Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro with 32GB of RAM and a 2020 iMac with 16GB of RAM to be almost in the same ballpark as the M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM. Considering the Intel-powered Macs cost twice or thrice as much, the result is almost embarrassing for Intel.

The benchmarks aren’t exactly a glowing recommendation of the 8GB RAM M1 MacBook Pro, just that, for most use cases, it would be enough. As always, buyers have to keep in mind what they intend to use the MacBook Pros for in the long run but they can rest assured knowing that even the more affordable model is no slouch.

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Intel boasts battery performance superiority over AMD in Intel tests

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Intel has taken quite a beating this year, from AMD’s unwavering onslaught to the damning benchmarks of the Apple Silicon M1. The launch of its 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors for laptops has seemingly been pushed to the sidelines as a consequence and it is looking for ways to get back into the spotlight. What better way to do that than by calling out its eternal rival AMD over the latter’s battery performance and, sure enough, the benchmarks ran by Intel show it having the upper hand in that particular use case.

Intel has traditionally dominated the desktop market where towering computers had less concern about power draw and thermal management. These days, however, laptops dominate the market, and battery life and heat dissipation have become just as or even more important than raw performance. Unfortunately for Intel, these have been areas where its mobile processors have not delivered to users’ satisfaction.

In its latest marketing push, Intel addresses at least one of those concerns, specifically the performance of its new Tiger Lake processors based on its Evo platform when the laptop is running solely on battery power. It pits its 11th-gen processors with laptops running on AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series to see which of the two sets squeezes the most out of battery power. Considering who’s running the tests and presenting the results, the outcome is unsurprising.

Although it concedes that AMD’s chips score better in battery life benchmarks, Intel also points out its own CPUs’ better and more consistent output when it comes to actual data and number crunching. It also takes note of a rather odd behavior from AMD’s processors where the CPUs delay burst and responsiveness for about 10 seconds. It also unsurprisingly calls out the inconsistency of the results from Cinebench, its least favorite suite.

Battery performance is, of course, just a single part of the picture and Intel has reportedly forbidden press from testing and talking about battery life, that other area where its chips have been notoriously weak. Intel has also so far remained silent on benchmark comparisons with Apple’s shiny new ARM-based M1 but it is probably choosing its battles where it has a slight chance of succeeding.

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HomePod mini owners report random Internet connectivity problems

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Apple was terribly late to the smart speaker party and even when the HomePod finally landed, it was initially a disappointment when it came to Siri’s usefulness and control of smart home appliances. It definitely got better over time but its competitors have moved on to bigger and smaller smart speakers. At long last, Apple finally bit back with the HomePod mini but the smart speaker is reportedly giving new owners more headaches than the $99 speaker is worth because of intermittent and inexplicable Internet connection problems.

A smart speaker is smart precisely because of how it connects to the Internet and other Internet-connected devices at home or elsewhere. While it might be possible to do things from a local network only, there are actions that only work if you have an active Internet connection. Without that, a smart speaker is just an overpriced speaker.

Unfortunately, that is exactly the experience that a number of owners are reporting with their new smart balls. They all report getting the same response from Siri when asking it to do something: “I am having trouble connecting to the Internet”. Unfortunately, the large HomePod doesn’t seem to experience the same issue so it’s definitely not the case.

Even worse, no fix seems to be available for the issue. Users have reported trying all possible methods, including those advised by Apple, from resetting the speaker to even resetting their routers. If the HomePod mini started working again, it would only be for a day at most.

The one silver lining is that all HomePod minis are naturally still covered by their warranties but that doesn’t exactly explain why it’s happening in the first place. At this point, it could either be a software problem or, worse, a hardware one, and the latter is definitely harder to fix, especially on your own.

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