Alfonso Ribeiro Denied Copyright for "the Carlton"

02/21/2019 | Business Litigation

If you have teen or tween children or relatives, or maybe even if you don’t, you have likely heard of the videogame Fortnite. While I’m not sure exactly what Fortnite entails, I do know the characters can perform a variety of dances.  Recently several “creators” of these dances have sought to copyright their moves and have filed lawsuits against Fortnite for infringing on their intellectual property.  One litigant is a YouTube sensation and amateur rapper, Backpack Kid, who claims to have invented “the floss” dance.  Another is Alfonso Ribeiro, who you may know as Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  In the Fresh Prince Alfonso often performed a dance nicknamed “the Carlton.”  A dance with similar looking movements is also used in Fortnite.  A variation of the dance was also launched in 2017 in the game NBA 2K18. 

Ribeiro received a ruling in December 2018 from the U.S. Copyright Office denying his copyright of “the Carlton.”  They found the dance steps to be a simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work.  They also found the variation in the NBA 2K18 game to be different from Ribeiro’s “Carlton.”  The videogame company has pending motions to dismiss all lawsuits related to their use of these dances.