For a while, it seemed that Epic Games would be working with creators to improve their popular dance moves by letting players officially reenact them Fortnite – instead of simply copying them to sell more emotes and skins for your in-game avatar.
But actress and dancer Ana Coto says Epic’s upcoming “Freewheelin” emote doesn’t thank her for his uncannily similar dance moves or his diaphragm, glasses-wearing, roller-skating skin – and it seems impossible that Epic wouldn’t be aware of her contribution.
fortnite scammed ana coto’s skate dance into “jenny from the block”, which went viral in April and inspired the big roller skate deficit of 2020. the original video has 15.7 million views on tiktok. pic.twitter.com/uuikB6deRI
– morgan sung (@morgan_sung) August 6, 2020
Where do I start? Let’s start with the fact that Coto’s original dance went absolutely viral in April, not only with 15.7 million views on TikTok, but also inspiring BuzzFeed, NBC News, and Digital trends to write profiles of Coto, where she earned her by stimulating the sale of roller skates and reviving the hobby. (Google Trends does show a wave that hasn’t stopped yet.)
This is the first time if the memory is operating Fortnite added a roller skating character period of time – let alone one that looks like Coto is doing her thing.
And while Coto has since surpassed views with other videos, each of those articles about Coto explicitly evokes the same viral performance, set on Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny from the Block,” as the spark that set the roller skates on fire.
In other words, it looks like Epic Games knows exactly what it does, and it doesn’t look great.
The weird part: didn’t Epic just create some paths to avoid this kind of bad PR? Last month, Fortnite officially recognized the creator of “The Renegade,” another viral TikTok dance by Atlanta teen Jalaiah Harmon. It even called the emote after the actual dance. Epic also held an official TikTok dance competition, found a winner a few days ago and also wrote to him:
Grab a friend and groove to the music with these smooth moves through @tiktok_us Emote Royale Winner, Michael (TikTok: michaelmejeh).
Get the new Verve Emote for free when you log in between July 29 and 8 p.m. ET pic.twitter.com/pB2FmpFSga
– Fortnite (@FortniteGame) July 28, 2020
Technically Epic is doing also have time to work with Coto – the new Freewheelin ’emote isn’t out yet (it leaked earlier this week), so the company was still able to credit her. But it doesn’t seem like that was the plan. The Renegade dance was similarly seen in an upcoming build just two weeks before it actually arrived, and Coto’s comments make it sound like Epic hasn’t spoken to her yet. Epic declined to comment.
That said, it’s not clear that Epic copied her dance, or that anything like that would be illegal even if it were. It’s possible that Coto just popularized those moves on her roller skates instead of making them herself. And so far, even dance makers have not had much success in court. In April, a judge ruled that the creator of the “Phone It In” dance was not much of a case, and dismissed most claims because Epic’s avatars were sufficiently “transformed” – in other words, they didn’t look like him.