Why is the Carlton Dance ineligible for copyright protection?
Fans of the 1990’s TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” will surely remember the iconic “Carlton Dance.” Throughout the series, character Carlton, played by actor Alfonso Ribeiro, would break out into a dance involving swaying his arms and hips enthusiastically. Recently, the popular videogame Fortnite started offering the Carlton Dance as an option for its avatars to perform. Mr. Ribeiro filed suit against Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, claiming that his dance should be protected and use of it by Epic Games constitutes copyright infringement.
Carlton Dance Too Simple for Protection
In weighing the matter, the U.S. Copyright Office did not agree that the Carlton Dance was entitled to protection. The government
The copyright office’s opinion does not necessarily mean the end of the road for Mr. Ribeiro. Courts are free to make their own decisions regarding whether
For now, the matter will remain before the court. The decision of the courts on the Carlton Dance could have wider implications because Fortnite is using more and more well-known dances for its avatars to perform. Mr. Ribeiro is just one of many potential artists who may file suit against Epic Games and other video game makers who may use the dances or other recognizable moves from actors and dancers alike.