Fresh Prince Star Loses Key Court Decision in Fortnite Dance Battle

February 15, 2019, 4:03 PM UTC

Uncle Phil’s not going to be happy about this.

The U.S. Copyright Office has denied a request by actor Alfonso Ribeiro to register the widely known dance move he created while acting on the 1990s NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

This could be a big blow to his case against creators of the video game Fortnite.

Ribeiro, who played Carlton on the show, has sued Epic Games for using the dance in the popular game. The developer/publisher is facing similar lawsuits from others, including musicians and online viral stars.

However, federal copyright officials said the three dance steps that make up the move, best known as the Carlton, aren’t enough to register it as a choreographic work.

“The dancer sways their hips as they step from side to side, while swinging their arms in an exaggerated manner,” wrote Saskia Florence, a member of the Copyright Office’s Performing Arts division. “In the second dance step, the dancer takes two steps to each side while opening and closing their legs and their arms in unison. In the final step, the dancer’s feet are still and they lower one hand from above their head to the middle of their chest while fluttering their fingers. The combination of these three dance steps is a simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work.”

Epic argues that no one can own a dance step and the Fortnite lawsuits by Ribeiro, rapper 2 Milly, and others infringe on its free speech rights. Courts have yet to rule on the various complaints.

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