Fortnite's Appropriation Issue Isn't About Copyright Law, It's About Ethics


#1

At a recent wedding, after the main course is taken away and the desserts come out, the least weighed-down guests slowly make our way to the dance floor. All of a sudden, a group of kids dash out and immediately begin performing Blocboy JB’s Shoot dance, a goofy, energetic strut made famous in the eponymously named music video. As the oldest one kicks his limbs out in the signature style of the dance, he shouts “Fortnite!” to the confused adults looking on.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/a3bkgj/fortnite-fortnight-black-appropriation-dance-emote

#2

Very, very small nitpick here; bell hooks’ name is properly spelled in lowercase, not in title case.


#3

A sentiment I’ve seen a few times is “why doesn’t Destiny get the same heat for doing the same appropriation”, the answer being, “it’s still bad there, but Destiny isn’t so culturally prevalent that it can effectively overwrite the original context of the performance”.

Epic have the money and means to credit the original performers in-game and include them in the revenue stream. They just don’t want to do it because it creates potential complications like “what if we establish precedent for this, but an artist doesn’t want to work with us, so therefore we have to take a dance out of the game completely”.

But they should have thought about that before appropriating the performances of others.


#4

Great article – Cole does great work in syntheisisng the different strands of this conversation into a whole piece. This is one of the best-stated arguments for this issue I’ve seen out there, contextualising the history of appropriation of black art by white people, Fortnite’s history with battle royale, and the necessity of crediting work.

It is that last point that I think is worth discussing in a slightly more light-hearted way. It is something I’d leave to see in games more. In the most charitable world possible, I am always a sucker for being able to see the context about a dance move (what is this move? In a game like Overwatch which ties them to specific characters, why this character?) and I think it would be a great addition to any game with this kind of item in there. If only a brief description, it would add a weight to its inclusion and give space for, if nothing else, credit to be given where due.


#5

I feel like the fact that the dances are so directly made a commodity in recent games makes things so much worse. I was thinking that world of warcraft has had dances for characters that are clearly specific references, but you didn’t just buy those outright; they weren’t a sort of status symbol. I’m not saying WoW was doing it right, they almost certainly didn’t ask anybody, but it does seem like a further insult nowadays that these pieces of culture are just sold for a few bucks.

Also, the language of the piece referring to digital marionettes and sanitized puppets really drives the point home well.


#6

Not only are they charging money now whereas older games didn’t, but it gets even more egregious that Epic (and similar devs) are basing their business model on appropriation. Full stop, the selling of emotes, along with skins and other cosmetics, are literally what’s keeping the lights on in the old Fortnite factory. For these devs to act like the work of 2 Milly isn’t what’s keeping their balance sheets in the black is the height of corporate gaslighting IMO.


#7

Damn, very good piece.

I don’t have much to add, but there is one other aspect of this whole thing that I find particularly annoying. Not only are these dances (and corresponding music) lifted without attributing credit, but it’s extra insulting that the music and culture that these dances are born from are oftentimes vilified (at least here in the US).

Growing up, I don’t know the number of times I’ve heard white people disparage rap music, criticize the way black people in general dress, etc, in public, but behind closed doors you knew they jamming out to their favorite hip-hop track. Or the number of cartoons I’d watch as a kid which always had that one episode where the white main character adopted a black/rapper persona for whatever reason.

Nowadays we have kids performing stolen “Fortnite” dances one minute and shouting racial slurs over voice chat the next. smh

I think Paul Mooney on the Chapelle Show said it best: CW: language


#8

When I heard that a musician was holding a concert in Fortnite I only thought “Huh, neat.” and moved on. I didn’t even make the connection that, of course, here’s a white artist being celebrated center stage by name while the crowd dances with stolen moves from uncredited black artists.


#9

Good, someone said it. This article clearly explains exactly why the whole Fortnite appropriation issue bothers me so much (especially the section on Marshmello). Excellent piece!


#10

Im about half way through the piece and it’s really excellent, and everything I think has been said here, so I just wanted to shout out that Waypoint is still using some illustration to accompany the text and not just screenshots. Give people in my field more work! Thank you!


#12

I’m working my way through this piece, but I’d also like to shout out the episode of the podcast Function with Anil Dash (here) that also talks about some of the legal problems with Epic’s appropriation and a really great interview 2 milly himself.