Back in December 2018 Alfonso Ribeiro, former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star, brought a lawsuit against Epic Games for using his dance moves in Fortnite. Now it looks like his case is falling apart, as the US copyright office has refused him copyright of the dance.
The dance is question is often referred to as “The Carlton”, after his character from Fresh Prince, due to the fact that it was made famous during the shows six series run. Ribeiro busted out his moves several times as Carlton, and the dance became synonymous with Tom Jones’ hit, It’s Not Unusual.
Bringing the lawsuit in December, Ribeiro claimed that Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite, have profited from his likeness, celebrity and creative expression.
In a bid to strengthen his case he took his dance moves to the US copyright office, in order to secure a copyright for his choreography. The problem is they don’t consider it choreography.
A letter from the US copyright office, uploaded to the Hollywood Reporter, states that the dance cannot be registered, because it doesn’t count as choreography. The letter states “we must refuse registration for The Dance By Alfonso Ribeiro – Variation B because the work submitted for registration is a simple dance routine. As such, it is not registrable as a choreographic work.”
The letter goes on to define choreography, and why the three move dance does not fit that description.
This judgement will not just be bad news to Ribiero, but also to the other artists including Rapper BlocBoy JB, Backpack Kid and Orange Shirt Kid, who have all filed similar lawsuits against games companies.
While Orange Shirt kid’s case fell apart the moment it began, due to him actually giving Epic permission to use his moves, the others had seemingly stronger cases. This judgement however certainly puts a huge dent in all their arguments, and surely gives Epic a much better chance of success.
It remains to be seen what happens next, but the news will most likely mean Epic are unlikely to try and settle out of court. There may still be a moral argument to make, but the legal one is looking shakier by the second.