There’s another Fortnite dance legal battle brewing, this one over Dancing Pumpkin Man

    
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Remember back when gobs of entertainers were trying to sue Epic Games for taking their dances and shoving them into Fortnite to sell them to players? We do; in fact, we covered the legal battles in-depth in our very first Lawful Neutral column, so we never have to do it again!

Just kidding. Of course we have to do it again because Epic Games. Apparently this time around, “Dancing Pumpkin Man” (how is this a thing?), or as his parents named him, Matthew Geiler, threatened to sue Epic over Fortnite’s Pump It Up emote, which was a rather obvious reference to Geiler’s viral video and dance. So Geiler issued the studio a C&D, and then Epic Games responded with a threat to sue if the C&D wasn’t withdrawn.

This gets weirder because according to Epic’s complaint, Geiler had already entered into a license agreement with Epic Games as of this past August; it appears to grant Epic the right to use the “character” and the “audio-visual work,” although without a copy of the license agreement, it’s hard to tell from this side of the judge’s bench whether the one-off emote would actually be covered.

Thank you, Epic, for ensuring my morning was spent reading a 34-page legal complaint explaining to the court what the hell Dancing Pumpkin Man actually is and why Epic was authorized to use it. I now give you this video to illustrate the absurdity of what’s being fought over here.

Source: 19-cv-11215 via Polygon

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Crowe

Based soley on the YouTube, I’m thinking the only similarity is that there is a guy in a pumpkin mask doing random dance moves. They don’t even match up too closely.

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Robert Mann

This is pretty open and shut that he gave permission, per his own admission (there’s evidence of this).

That said, Epic’s standard for argument here is such that I want to see karma kick them in the arse. First, though, Epic actually has to do something creative for the first time in years…

Finally, I remain on the side of things that Epic needs to have agreements for royalties with people who they are taking dances from, if they are going to sell them. If the dances were free in game, then there would be no issue.

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vemerce

For the sake of actually being fair, I don’t think this guy has much in the name of a lawsuit. However, for the sake of this involving Epic Games, owners of the Epic Games Launcher, and the people who now go around buying up everything as an exclusive… I wouldn’t be sad to see them lose millions in a bad ruling against them. My desire to see this go against Epic Games is only magnified by the fact they initiated the actual lawsuit after the guy sent them a cease and desist. In my opinion, being the juggernaut they are, they should have sat back and let him initiate any legal action if there were any to be had; this looks like another big corporation throwing money around to bully the little guy. (Even if he was technically wrong, they would have looked better if they were actually “attacked” legally first and defended themselves, instead of going on the offensive.)

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Epic licensed the “choreography” from him that he did in the dance. So he has no ability to sue over the dance moves. What he’s trying to sue over is claiming they’re using a character he created because they’re using a pumpkin face in the emote.

I think it says it best in the legal filing that Epic made:

“Defendants have alleged that the Pump It Up Emote infringes their copyright to a “character,” which they refer to as the “Dancing Pumpkin Man,” that appeared in a video in which Defendant Geiler is dressed in a plain black unitard he did not make, wearing as a mask a jack-o’-lantern decoration he did not create, dancing to a song he did not write in front of a static, generic graveyard image ”

Epic paid the guy for the dance itself, and then designed their own unique pumpkin head image to go on the character. This guy just put on some pre-made Halloween stuff and now wants to sue people like he owns pumpkin heads.

The dance is paid for so it can’t be considered in the lawsuit. So basically you have to look at the static images and see if that is infringing on “his” character. The only thing that can be considered is the pumpkin head. And no this guy doesn’t own pumpkin heads now even though he seems to think he does.

It would be justice if the guy suing them had to pay for their lawyers and all the work that had to be done because of his frivolous crap.

“They paid for the dance, but how can I squeeze more money out of them? Hey! A pumpkin head! That’s my character, I own pumpkin heads now!”

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angrakhan

I feel stupider after watching that video. This is what we file lawsuits over now?

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Witches

This looks like a job for SettleOutOfCourtMan.

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Toy Clown

Are reasons like these the reason why we’re hardly seeing dances added to MMOs anymore?

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Sray

I think so. Everyone is afraid of what will happen once Will Arnett decides to sue virtually every video made in the last 15 years for having a “chicken dance” emote.

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NecrococoPlays

I don’t think so. The issue with Fortnight seems to be a larger, more mainstream audience, but more importantly, the fact that the dances are (to my understanding) being sold in the cash shop. WoW used a lot of dances, and continues to add them with new races, but they’re not being sold as standalone items. Further, most of them weren’t taken from small-time individuals who are more likely to see suing as an opportunity for personal financial gain. Their dances come from more well-known choreographies, as far as I remember, and most of those sources aren’t that hungry for cash – and I think they might have some protection under parody laws? I think the core is that, again, they’re not selling the dances as standalone items.

SWTOR added a lot of dances to their cash shop, but none were taken from viral videos. GW2 has racial dances, as well as a book of dances, and I don’t believe any of their sources sued due to the fact that they also weren’t behind a cash shop. One of the dances was taken from a performance at a Diwali celebration (sylvari) and there didn’t seem to be any issues around that.

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Crowe

GW2 also did a far better job of replicating their dances in game as that vid shows.

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starbuck1771

Epic will win this one due to rights alone. 1. The dance is a mix of pre-existing dances. 2. He can’t claim ownership of the pumpkin head which has been around since the middle ages in the form of the headless horseman.

In the end Geiler will lose because none of it is originally his.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

He’s trying to sue over the character. The license that they did with him allows them to use the choreography from the video. So he has no ability to sue over the dance itself and is just trying to sue over, um, I guess the fact that the character has a pumpkin mask? So he somehow thinks he owns the rights to pumpkin faces because he put on a mask he found in their Halloween decorations.

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starbuck1771

As I stated the pumpkin head has been around since the middle ages. So he has no real claim. Everyone from Disney to Mars has used the pumpkin head. So any chance of victory for him would be tossed out.