Docket Number: 22-55890
Judge: Paez
Opinion Date: November 1, 2023

Choreographer Kyle Hanagami claimed that Epic Games, Inc., the creator of the videogame Fortnite, infringed the copyright of a choreographic work when the company created and sold a virtual animation, known as an “emote,” depicting portions of the registered choreography. The district court dismissed his action under the Copyright Act and remanded for further proceedings on claims of direct and contributory infringement of a choreographic work.
The Ninth Circuit reversed. The panel held that, under the “extrinsic test” for assessing substantial similarity, Hanagami plausibly alleged that his choreography and Epic’s emote shared substantial similarities. The panel held that, like other forms of copyrightable material such as music, choreography is composed of various elements that are unprotectable when viewed in isolation. What is protectable is the choreographer’s selection and arrangement of the work’s otherwise unprotectable elements. The panel held that “poses” are not the only relevant element, and a choreographic work also may include body position, body shape, body actions, transitions, use of space, timing, pauses, energy, canon, motif, contrast, and repetition. The panel concluded that Hanagami plausibly alleged that the creative choices he made in selecting and arranging elements of the choreography—the movement of the limbs, movement of the hands and fingers, head and shoulder movement, and tempo—were substantially similar to the choices Epic made in creating the emote. The panel held that the district court also erred in dismissing Hanagami’s claim on the ground that the allegedly copied choreography was “short” and a “small component” of Hanagami’s overall work. View “KYLE HANAGAMI V. EPIC GAMES, INC., ET AL” on Justia Law

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