Superbowl 2019: a $3,000 ticket to see Maroon 5. We’ll explain why Janet Jackson isn’t the only one who deserves an apology. Also due for an apology: Rapper 2 Milly after Fortnite allegedly ripped off his signature dance move. Plus: why Michael might regret getting what he asked for in the media biz.
Rapper 2 Milly claims Milly Rock dance move was stolen by the studio.
by Shane Alexander
Rapper 2 Milly and his crew made up a dance when they were teenagers and anyone can do it. The two-step involves swooping and twirling the arms in each direction. Embellishment is encouraged thereafter. Milly mixed his name and the rockin motion to coin his funky creation. This is how the Milly Rock dance move was born. In 2014, 2 Milly released a song for the dance, and it soon went viral. The track inspired everyone to Milly Rock around their blocks. Roy Purdy, who did the Milly Rock while skateboarding in New York City has 21,047,929 views on Youtube. 2 Milly’s official video has earned 18,260,297 views as of this writing.
About this Milly Rock suit
While everyone was doing the Milly Rock, including Rihanna and Travis Scott , the dance move was obviously getting huge. “If you ain’t Milly Rockin’, you ain’t doing nothing,” 2 Milly, whose real name is Terrence Ferguson, told Vice in 2015.
But then last July some unwanted Mily Rocke were brought to the rapper’s attention: Fortnite avatars. The dancing avatar swung her left arm, then her right, spun her fists in a circular motion, then twisted her hips and did it all again.
Fortnite, a massively popular battle-royal video game, doesn’t call the dance move by Milly but instead Swipe It. In the game it’s a victory dance that players can unlock after purchasing an add-on package for 90 V-bucks – $9.50 in real coin. Gamers pointed out the similarities immediately. Now, 2 Milly is suing over it.
Here’s the rap
The suit was filed December 5 in federal court in Los Angeles, accuses Epic Games not only stealing 2 Milly’s dance moves and his likeness without permission but also exploiting various African American artists’ taken without credit. The rap that Fortnite has been appropriating black music and culture for financial gain has been stewing for months.
They have tons of examples. In the game they have a dance move that looks a lot like Snoop doing his dance from 2004’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. In Fortnite the move is named “Tidy“ in Fortnite, the suit claims. Alfonso Ribeiro’s famous “Carlton Dance” from the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” is named “Fresh.” Donald Faison’s signature dance on the TV show “Scrubs” is simply called “Dance Moves”. Youtuber A_Rival Planetskill took a closer look at this particular one. Let’s see what he found out:
“There seems to be this disrespect and undervalue, or lack of appreciation, for African American talent,” David L. Hecht, one of 2 Millly’s lawyers, told The Washington Post. “They’re taking advantage of the fame of these artists without any type of acknowledgment.”
Sales are up
The debate over Fornite’s use of the popular dance accelerated in the days after the Mily Rock appeared to be included on Fornite’s Battle Royal’s Season 5 Battle Pass. The game, boasting more than 200 million players, and a $1 billion revenue stream is free for download. They make their money through in-game purchases and “Battle Passes”, which is how users could unlock the Swipe It dance move.
Chance the Rapper was one of the first to reach out on Twitter stating he recognized the Milly Rock jig immediately.
“Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes,” he said on Twitter in July. “Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them.”
Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2018
And here’s another one. Marlon Webb danced like a cartoon character to the beat of A-ha’s “Take on Me” in his “Band of the Bold” video. Webb wasn’t pleased either. “They stole my move and basically didn’t give any credit for it”, he said in a video he posted on his channel last March. Watch below:
Wait, can you copyright dance moves?
“The problem is players could be thinking, ‘Maybe the artists endorsed this. Maybe Milly endorsed this,” Hecht said. “That’s just not the case. Because these moves are for sale, that has made it much worse.”
The case revolves around copyright infringement and the right of publicity, in which 2 Milly claims Epic Games essentially hijacked a piece of his identity and likeness. Case law on copyright cases for choreographed works is treading into the murky side of the dance floor. Hecht says he is certain the “Milly Rock” qualifies as copyrighted choreography, though he would not elaborate.
But this is where it gets interesting. The case centers on avatars allegedly copying human’s dance moves in digital format – a 21st century problem for a 20th-century law. 2 Milly’s people have accused Epic Games for stealing dance moves frame-for-frame from the rappers’ music video, by coding the still frames and applying it to the avatars. Hecht compared the method to tracing a picture. “These are rendered in such a way that this isn’t just an imitation,” Hecht said. “This is a deliberate copy.”
A good example here involves Bette Midler. Wait, what?
The lawyer says this amounts to not just stealing dance moves, but stealing a piece of his client’s identity. Hecht said an example involves Bette Midler. In the 1980s, the Ford Motor Company and its ad agency hired a Bette impersonator to sing her song in an ad. Midler claimed the car company appropriated her identity through impersonation. The singer won in the U.S. Court of Apparels for the 9th Circuit, a ruling upheld by the Supreme Court in 1992, even though she didn’t need to copyright the sound of her voice.
“I don’t even want to bash them for all the millions,” 2 Milly told CBS News. “Know what I mean? It’s not really like that. I just feel like I have to protect what’s mine.”