Actor, Alfonso Ribero, starred as “Carlton” in the 1990’s show “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”. On the show, he popularized a nerdy, fun dance, commonly called “The Carlton”. You have probably seen the hip swaying, arm swinging, side stepping choreography at a wedding reception.
Fortnite is an online video game, extremely popular with today’s youth. Kids enjoy a fun quirk in the game, where a player selects a dance for their character to perform. (Usually, after he or she kills another opponent). One of the available dances resembles “The Carlton”.
Alfonso Ribero took issue with this similarity and sued the company behind Fortnite. The U.S. Copyright office dealt the actor a blow this week, in a letter detailing the limitations of Mr. Ribero’s claims.
"The combination of these three dance steps is a simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work," said a representative of the Copyright Office. "Copyright law is clear that individual dance steps and simple dance routines are not protected by copyright, but rather are building blocks of free expression, which are in the public domain for choreographers, dancers, and the general public to use, perform, and enjoy."
The video game company is using the letter to seek dismissal of this case, as well as others. A few entertainers have sued because their dance moves were copied in Fortnite.
Being older, I don’t recognize these plaintiff’s names, other than the “Backpack Kid” who popularized the “Floss” dance. If you know this dance, you are probably reading this on an iPad.
Attorney James Haroutunian practices real-estate law, estate planning and probate at 630 Boston Road, Billerica. He gladly invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-671-0711. This column is published for informational purposes only and not to be relied on as legal advice, in any manner.