New York Saxophonist Latest To Sue Fortnite Developers For Supposedly Ripping Off His... 'Likeness'

from the business-model-composed-completely-of-question-marks dept

Because there's no shortage of people willing to believe someone else's millions can be theirs with minimal effort, another semi-celebrity has hopped aboard law firm Pierce Bainbridge's Fortnite-suing money train. Destination unknown.

The law firm has helped everyone from former sitcom star Alfonso Ribeiro to a sentient meme known as "Backpack Kid" throw money into a federal court holes over the past several months. Thanks to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, most of its copyright infringement lawsuits are on hold because the plaintiffs have yet to actually have protection granted for their dance moves by the US Copyright Office.

It's not like this is just a matter of waiting out the Office. The Copyright Office has made it clear it will only extend copyright protection to dance moves showing sufficient creativity. It's not likely to find most of the dance moves being sued over worth protecting as most of them consist of only a "few movements or steps with minor linear or spatial variations." One of the first litigants to jump into the Sue Fortnite pool -- Alfonso Ribeiro -- has already been rejected by the federal government.

Unfortunately, the lawsuits continue, as Nick Statt reports for The Verge.

Fortnite creator Epic Games is facing a lawsuit from New York City-based saxophonist Leo Pellegrino, who claims the developer has used his likeness without permission when designing a saxophone dance in the game. The lawsuit was filed today in federal court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.

The emote, called “Phone It In,” lets players whip out the brass instrument and play a quick tune while dancing. Pellegrino, best known for his Brass House band Too Many Zooz, says his “trademark moves have become inseparable from his persona and his life story” and that Epic had not previously asked for permission to use his likeness or “his signature moves.”

The law firm apparently submitted this video of Leo Pellegrino performing as evidence of Fortnite's ripoffery.

Firm staffers likely had to browse their way past this video, which seems to show Fortnite's developers are ripping off someone else entirely.

What makes this lawsuit even more sketchy than the others Pierce Bainbridge has filed is it's not a copyright infringement lawsuit. The lack of registration has halted its other lawsuits and, given the Copyright Office's response to one its many clients, it seems unlikely most of these will be refiled. So, Pellegrino is claiming it's his likeness that has been "misappropriated," which is definitely a stretch when the emotes can be performed by dozens of characters that look and dress nothing like Pellegrino. Oh, and also, even the saxophone is different. Pellegrino plays a baritone sax, and the Fortnite version appears to be an alto sax, so they're not even playing the same instrument.

All Pellegrino really has is an assertion that he's a dude who plays a saxophone enthusiastically and Fortnite has an "emote" featuring a different kind of saxophone being played enthusiastically by the player's avatar. Any similarities are probably coincidental, seeing as there's only so many ways someone can play a saxophone with far more enthusiasm than the instrument deserves.

Despite its 100% failure rate in Fortnite lawsuits, Pierce Bainbridge is still finding plaintiffs willing to ensure its partners keep collecting paychecks. And isn't that the greatest victory of all?

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: alfonso ribeiro, copyright, dance moves, fortnite, lawsuits, leo pellegrino, likeness, publicity rights
Companies: epic, pierce bainbridge


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Gary (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 1:58pm

    New Flash

    This just in: Lisa Simpson is now sueing Leo Pellegrino for stealing her classic sax moves as seen on The Simpsons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    David, 1 May 2019 @ 2:01pm

    Good thing that Adolphe Sax has died in 1894

    Otherwise he or his estate or whatever society feels entitled to cash in in order to encourage some long deceased zombies to design more instruments could sue for the likeness of the saxophone. Maybe as a landmark or whatever the newest fad is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 2:20pm

    IP is just a thing we created to allow us to demand money from people with lots of money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2019 @ 2:22pm

    Creative industry my ass....
    Sorry anger from deep thoughts. i Was hearing “America is country of innovation” in my head and the irony was overwhelming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Rocky, 1 May 2019 @ 3:00pm

    Re:

    Somewhere there is an orchestra that has a string section entirely consisting of musicians playing the worlds smallest violins for all the "artists" and "corporations" involved in these types of litigation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2019 @ 3:00pm

    Well if one of these Plaintiffs is successful, he'll do the "Carlton dance" as he leaves court!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 3:13pm

    I actually have video (somewhere) of a kid who played fortnight, then instead of doing the emote, actually whipped out his sax and did the playing. (I should point out its because he was a band member in my son's band playing fortnight, and did it specifically to be funny.
    But he even looks more like a fortnight character than pellegrino.

    BTW, 'throw money into federal court holes' - great term.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2019 @ 3:29pm

    Re:

    Nobody has as many novel ways of extracting wealth as the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 1 May 2019 @ 3:36pm

    Timmy Cappello

    Reminds me more of Timmy Cappello from the Lost Boys

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bobvious, 1 May 2019 @ 3:38pm

    Re: New(s) Flash

    Scoop: Sideshow Bob joins as co-plaintiff, on behalf of the Estate of "Blood and Guts" Murphy ("Who was quite the Souzaphone player").

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2019 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re:

    oh please let this be real

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    PaulT (profile), 2 May 2019 @ 12:19am

    Re: Timmy Cappello

    That was my go to as well, along with the occasional sax player I see playing along with house music in my local beach bars. Perhaps there's only one real way a person can play that instrument with a degree of excitement?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    David, 2 May 2019 @ 3:27am

    Re:

    Turns out that IP tends to enable people with lots of money to demand money on behalf of (or sometimes from) people actually earning money.

    Imagine sperm whale sized leeches: they need to keep their priorities straight when trying to organize their food sources. You can bleed the small fry dry but you need to culture the big blood a bit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Dan Neely (profile), 2 May 2019 @ 6:30am

    I assume Fortnite is just the first target of many

    virtually every multiplayer game is full of dbags spewing vitriolic nonsense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Gary (profile), 2 May 2019 @ 6:45am

    Re: I assume Fortnite is just the first target of many

    every multiplayer game is full of dbags

    Because moderation at scale is impossible to get right. But what does that have to do with Saxophones?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    PaulT (profile), 2 May 2019 @ 7:07am

    Re: I assume Fortnite is just the first target of many

    Perhaps they are. But, this has nothing to do with those people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 2 May 2019 @ 12:14pm

    Re: New Flash

    I'm waiting for Zoot of The Electric Mayhem to weigh in on this one...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    TechnoMage (profile), 17 Sep 2019 @ 1:30am

    No idea who was 'first', but this seems relevant...

    Just ran across this on twitter... and is basically same damn thing, but amusingly to me... less annoying than either above...

    Again, no idea the timing on who was first or w/e... but as far as I know... US doesn't allow copyright of dance moves... so this entire thing is still silly and fortnight shouldn't be doing this... and should give token amounts to people just to earn good PR at this point if nothing else...

    https://twitter.com/mattwhitlockPM/status/1172364612836237312

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.