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‘Fresh Prince’ Actor Denied Dance Copyright in ‘Fortnite,’ ‘NBA 2K16’ Lawsuits

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star Alfonso Ribeiro has been denied a copyright for the “Carlton” dance, which is the focus of lawsuits the actor recently filed against “Fortnite” developer Epic Games and “NBA 2K16” publisher Take-Two Interactive, The Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The denial from the U.S. Copyright Office was revealed on Wednesday in a motion to dismiss Ribeiro’s lawsuit against Take-Two, the AP said. The document stated the three moves that make up the “Carlton” are a simple dance routine and not a piece of choreography, so they’re not protected under copyright law.

“The fact that a dance or movement may contain more than a trivial amount of original authorship is irrelevant to this determination,” the U.S. Copyright Office said in a letter to Ribeiro’s law firm. “Social dances, simple routines, and other uncopyrightable movements are not ‘choreographic works’ under Section 102(a)(4) of the Copyright Act. As such, they cannot be registered, even if they contain a substantial amount of original, creative expression.”

RIbeiro filed his lawsuits against Take-Two and Epic in December, claiming the video game publishers copied his famous dance and monetized it in their games without his permission and without compensation. The actor allegedly created the “Carlton” in a 1991 episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” His lawsuit claimed the dance is inextricably linked to him and his celebrity persona. Twenty-seven years later it’s still recognizable and he still gets asked to perform it for fans.

Rapper Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson and internet personality Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning are also suing Epic Games for copying and monetizing their dance moves, the “Milly Rock” and “The Floss,” respectively.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss Ribeiro’s lawsuit against Take-Two is scheduled for Mar. 18.

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