With the staggering popularity of Fortnite Battle Royale, a lot of people have been very critical of the way that this and other games source their emotes and dances. The problem is that through microtransactions to purchase these, companies are directly profiting from the creative efforts of primarily black American and other minority artists without properly crediting them.
It’s seemingly about to come to a head. A few weeks after rapper 2 Milly sued both companies for the ‘Milly Rock’ dance, Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who’s most famous for his role as Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has also filed suits against Epic Games and 2K Games for their use of the ‘Carlton Dance’ that he came up with on the show – he’s also filing for a copyright on his dance.
You all know the one, but here it is, anyway:
Fortnite and NBA 2K are the ones in the firing line right now, but don’t be surprised if other game companies get caught up in Ribeiro’s lawsuits. One of the first examples I can remember that drew upon the Carlton Dance was Destiny: The Taken King, which introduced more dances into the game alongside microtransactions, once of which was ‘Enthusiastic Dance’.
The simple laziness of how they rebrand the emotes is just another galling part of this, because it reattributes the creative process to the developer for those that do not understand the context – young kids simply know these dances from Fortnite, not that ‘Fresh’ comes from Ribeiro or that ‘Swipe It’ is 2 Milly’s Millie Rock. The companies drew criticism for this earlier this year, with several artists coming up with creative solutions to the problem of representation:
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
Ribeiro is putting into action the prevalent suggestion that artists should sue for compensation from game companies, something which was discussed in this quite fascinating video from Insider: