Two former University of Maryland basketball players are suing the creators of the game "Fortnite" for allegedly ripping off the players’ running man challenge dance that went viral.
Jaylen Brantley, now living in Massachusetts, and Jared Nickens, now living in New Jersey, are seeking upwards of $20 million. They say that Epic Games infringed their copyright and violated their publicity rights.
Epic Games copied the version of the running man dance that Brantley and Nickens pushed into viral fame from locker rooms at UMD and elsewhere, the lawsuit says.
The running man dance reached peak viral fame in spring 2016 after Brantley and Nickens started showing off their moves on video to their Instagram followers — Then challenged other teams to a digital dance-off.
"Epic should not be able to profit from Plaintiff’s fame, creativity and hard work by its intentional misappropriation of Plaintiff’s original content or likeness," the lawsuit says.
"Fortnite" is free to play, but has made billions of dollars in profits by selling customized options for players’ in-game avatars. One of those purchase options includes a move called the running man, which looks like an exact copy of one of the players’ viral videos, the lawsuit says. Epic Games allowed players to purchase the dance for about $5 worth of an in-game currency.
Two bored kids in a high school finance class are credited with creating the dance itself. Jeremiah Hall and Kevin Vincent, from New Jersey, even got a $10,000 check from Ellen Degeneres to fund their future college tuition and showed off their moves on the TV hosts’ stage along with several members of the Terps.
Brantly, whose Instagram account is now private, says in his bio that he’s the "creator of the running man challenge.
Epic Games is accused of lifting several other in-game purchases from pop culture.
"Epic has also consistently sought to exploit African American talent, in particular in Fortnite, by copying their dances and movements,” the suit says, saying the game incorporated the Carlton Dance from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" among others.
Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton, has also sued Epic Games for selling the “Carlton Dance” that made him famous. The lawsuit alleges Epic stole dances from several other performers, including Snoop Dogg, Will Smith, Marlon Webbs and Donald Faison of “Scrubs.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the game as "Fortnight" rather than "Fortnite."