When clips go viral online and become shared multiple times, it might be difficult to have control over its propriety. The question is whether creators or artists of certain popular memes would have a say against companies who use their virality in their own works.
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That was what happened in the case of Alfonso Ribeiro who sued Epic Games for making use of the Carlton dance move in their widely popular game Fortnite. Now, the problem with this is that no precedent has been laid out for such a case. Furthermore, US Law isn’t on Ribeiro’s side.
Does a single, repetitive dance move constitute intellectual property? No. Copyright law says that any body of work that is protected must be an original creation that has been emmorialized in a tangible form. One dance step is not considered a creative body of work, because it is not enough material to cover.
There are basically only two types of cases concerning alleged intellectual property infringement through appropriation of dance moves that appear as popular memes: claims of copyright infringement and claims of unauthorized use of personal likeness.
What does this mean then going forward? Unless artists and creators apply for copyright on their works, they wouldn’t have any power over how the public makes use of them. Which means, despite the virality of things they create, they won’t earn a cent from them.
This could then hamper artistic expression and take away the incentive for these creators to make anything at all. But this could be an important lesson for creators who think that their work might become popular and be used for profit by others.
>It’s hard to imagine that Ribeiro or Pellegrino are legally entitled to any of Fortnite‘s $2.4 billion in profits and counting. It’s still up to the courts to decide, as long as there are open cases, but future meme creators should probably consider obtaining a copyright before their work goes viral instead of a lawyer after.
(Image credit: TY_/Youtube)