Copyright Office Turns Down Alfonso Ribeiro’s ‘Carlton Dance’ Filing in Ongoing Lawsuit Against Fortnite and Epic Games
It seems like Epic Games might have less to fear than originally thought in its ongoing lawsuit from Alfonso Ribeiro.
Back in December, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Alfonso Ribeiro filed a lawsuit against Epic Games for using his ‘Carlton Dance’ from the show in their mega-popular game Fortnite. Unfortunately for Ribeiro, it seems that he has now hit a rather large snag in his pursuit to win this lawsuit.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ribeiro’s recent filing with the Copyright Office to make the dance his own property has now failed. The office stated that the dance moves in question were more of a “simple routine” rather than a choreographed work. For reference, to copyright a dance it usually has to contain multiple moves and parts and not just one gesture. Clearly, the Copyright Office saw the ‘Carlton Dance’ as the former rather than the latter.
Furthermore, it is reported that Ribeiro himself can’t even own the dance since it appeared on a TV show. The dance is technically owned by broadcasting network NBC as they were the ones that aired The Fresh Prince of Bel Air during its original run. Ribeiro himself is also said to have knowledge of this as well, which is why he didn’t try to register a copyright for the dance in the past.
This being said, the version of the dance that Ribeiro submitted to the office was the one he performed on ABC’s Dancing With the Star. This again though raised more issues, specifically being the determination of who created or owned the dance in question that was performed on the show. In Dancing With the Stars, usually, it is the celebrity’s professional dance partner (in this case Witney Carson) that creates the entire routine that is then performed on the program. As such, there’s a case that others could have been the real owner of this routine.
All of this being said, it doesn’t mean that Ribeiro’s lawsuit against Epic–and also Take-Two for using the same dance in NBA 2K–is now concluded. The lawsuit is still ongoing and Ribeiro could still definitely win the case. That said, not having ownership of ‘The Carlton’ itself will surely be an issue for Ribeiro and his lawyers down the road.