Developer Epic Games has found itself slapped with another lawsuit over one of their many Fortnite emotes. The Verge reports that saxophone player Leo Pellegrino is suing Epic over using his likeness in the ‘Phone It In’ emote, not the actual dance itself. The lawsuit claims that Epic did not ask Pellegrino for permission to use “his signature moves” in Fortnite.
Pellegrino’s lawsuit was filed in an eastern district of Pennsylvania and he is represented by the law firm Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP. For those keeping up with Epic’s legal troubles, you’ll recognize this as the firm that also represents Alfonso Ribeiro, Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson, “BlocBoy JB” Baker, “Orange Shirt Kid,” and Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning.
All of those cases are currently halted following a Supreme Court ruling that requires the US Copyright Office to either accept or refuse their application for registration. Pellegrino is not suing Epic Games over the dance itself, so he shouldn’t need to wait for the US Copyright Office. One of the firm’s lawyers told The Verge that part of the claim revolves around the “outward pointing feet” and “duck footed” pose that Pellegrino strikes when dancing.
Issues may arise, however, as the ‘Phone It In’ emote could easily have been inspired by the Epic Sax Guy meme above. Epic has pulled from various memes and pieces of pop culture prior to this emote, this wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that Epic Sax Guy was their inspiration. Currently, Epic Games has an Avengers-themed event taking place and has crafted emotes from a variety of different singers, rappers, and even films such as Footloose.
Given how many other games use these kinds of emotes in-game, it will be inquiring to see whether Epic wins these lawsuits or not. Losing could easily set a precedent for how other developers use emotes in their games.
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