The law firm representing a number of celebrities who are suing “Fortnite” creator Epic Games reports that someone tried to sabotage the cases by sending fake emails to the U.S. Copyright Office.
Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht said the following typo-riddled message was sent to the office over the holiday weekend from someone pretending to be attorney David L. Hecht:
“Recently, I noticed that my clients and I have been filing copyright claims regarding dance moves. Please have them rejected right now. If any judges are working on them, I want your workers to tell them they should be rejected/dismissed because they were containing very false information. What my clients and I have done towards certain gaming companies were very wreckless and baseless. Once again, I would like for our copyright claims to be terminated/dismissed because they were false/baseless.”
The message included Hecht’s name and email address. Once he was notified about the apparently-spoofed communication, the firm alerted the authorities, including the FBI. A second fake message was reportedly sent to the U.S. Copyright Office on Tuesday.
Hecht is representing some of the celebrities suing Epic Games, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star Alfonso Ribeiro, internet personalities Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning and “Orange Shirt Kid,” and rappers 2 Milly and Blocboy JB. All of them claim the developer copied and sold their trademark dance moves within its massively popular battle royale title “Fortnite” without permission or compensation.
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“While our clients have overwhelmingly received strong support from the public in pursuing fair and reasonable compensation — and proper recognition — for their misappropriated likenesses and infringed works, an uninformed minority fails to understand the importance of these cases and apparently seeks to subvert them,” said Hecht in a press release. “Section 102(a)(4) of the Copyright Act is crystal clear: choreographic works are eligible for protection.”
While Hecht said Backpack Kid and Orange Shirt Kid have successfully registered their respective dances with the Copyright Office, Ribeiro was reportedly denied a copyright for “The Carlton,” a dance he created in a 1990s episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The denial stated the three steps that make up “The Carlton” are a simple dance routine and not a choreographed work, so they’re not protected under the Copyright Act.
Hecht plans to fight any applications that are turned down and said recent press about the rejections is “highly misleading and quite uninformed.” “Such unapprised reporting on highly technical intellectual property matters also fuels dissension,” he added. “Our lawsuits are the opposite of ‘wreckless and baseless’ as suggested by the hacker; there is no doubt that all of our clients have colorable claims and there is no question that Epic shamelessly copied our clients’ dances, failing to even ask for permission.”
“I also want to make clear to some worried ‘Fortnite’ fans: our clients are not looking to shut down ‘Fortnite,” he said. “There is no risk of that. Rather, our clients are looking for fair and reasonable compensation, and recognition, for their dances. We are also hoping to spread awareness that performers have a variety of rights that can protect them — not just copyright, but also right of publicity and trademark.”