Take-Two Interactive has filed a lawsuit against rapper Brandon Sims for alleging copyright claims to dance moves used by characters in NBA 2K19.
According to the obtained court documents, Take-Two Interactive stated that just like real basketball players, the in-game characters of NBA 2K19 can celebrate with dance moves on the court after winning a match or making a dunk.
The dance move in question, an eight-second animation dubbed the “Take-Two Dance Step,” has been claimed by Sims for infringing the copyrights of a choreographic work called “Crank That Dance” which is based on a Soulja Boy song called “Crank That” where three dancers perform a variety of dance steps. Sims has written multiple letters to Take-Two Interactive regarding one of those dance steps while demanding an unidentified amount of compensation for copying the said dance routine in NBA 2K19 without permission.
Take-Two Interactive stated that “no one can own a dance step” since they are “building blocks used to create choreographic works” and are not choreographic works themselves. The parent company of developer 2K Games also stated that the claims made by Sims are akin to the defendant claiming copyright infringement on colors and geometric shapes, neither of which is protectable.
The distinction between individual dance steps and choreographic works is an important feature of copyright law’s accommodation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. For that reason, Congress and the Copyright Office are clear that dance steps are not protected by copyright law.
Take-Two Interactive furthermore noted in the lawsuit that the Sims can never make copyright claims in the first place because his dance routines were based on a song owned by someone else—Soulja Boy. Hence, the defendant has not only copied the dance step but also the name of the dance routine.
Take-Two Interactive has placed a request for a judgement to officially declare that NBA 2K19 did not infringe any copyrights held by Sims. That and to cover the legal fees as well as other relief as deemed by the court.