Alfonso Ribeiro Denied Copyright for the “Carlton Dance”
The United States Copyright Office has denied a copyright submission over the “Carlton dance,” which was a routine first popularized on the hit 90s show, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played Carlton on the show, submitted three copyright applications over his dance routine to the U.S. Copyright Office. So far, two of the applications have been rejected and one is still under consideration.
In recent months, several performers have sued video game makers alleging that the companies committed copyright theft by including the individual performers’ dances within their video games as purchasable content.
These performers include the rapper 2 Milly, who also submitted a request for copyright on his “Milly Rock” dance and was denied.
Mr. Ribeiro sued Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite Battle Royale, as well as Take-Two Interactive Software, which makes NBA 2K16.
However, the copyright office denied the registration, under the basis that Mr. Ribeiro’s choreographic claims were deemed “a simple routine” and not complex enough to clear the bar and qualify as copyrightable.
That being said, courts are not bound by the U.S. Copyright Office’s decision, and could still reach a different conclusion in the lawsuit. The copyright office’s determination would be taken into consideration in determining a ruling.
There were already concerns regarding the true ownership of the dance prior to the copyright office’s decision. The creative license could go to NBC, which was the station that originally aired “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” rather than Mr. Ribeiro.
Mr. Ribeiro’s attorney has said he plans to ask the U.S. Copyright Office to reconsider their decision, because even if the individual movements of the routine are “simple,” the way his client arranged the movement should be considered a choreographic work.