The U.S. Copyright Office doesn't think Alfonso Ribeiro has strong claims to the "Carlton Dance." The 47-year-old actor is currently suing Take-Two Interactive and the developers behind Fortnite for including the dance he created while acting on the series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but correspondence between Ribeiro's attorney and the office reveals that they aren't convinced.
The letter said that the steps of the dance weren't distinct enough to justify a copyright. "The combination of these three dance steps is a simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work," a representative of the Copyright Office specifically explains in the newly revealed document.
Ribeiro is one of many people accusing Fortnite of stealing their intellectual property via their purchasble dances called "emotes." BlocBoy JB, 2 Milly, and the Backpack Kid have all sued the developers over stealing their moves. The company's attorney countered 2 Milly's case in particular, arguing in a brief that no one can own a dance step.
"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," they wrote.
While many people have called out Fortnite, only Ribeiro and Backpack Kid have a case against Take-Two Interactive, the makers of NBA 2K. Both the Carlton and the Floss dance were included in the game.
Attorneys for Take-Two seized on Ribeiro's copyright denial, as well as the fact that Ribeiro was performing the dance while under contract with NBC, as evidence that his case against them should be dismissed. In a brief uncovered by The Hollywood Reporter, Take-Two's representation say that Ribeiro "admits to creating the alleged 'Dance' for the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series, but did not try to register that 'Dance' with the Copyright Office—presumably because he knows that he does not own the copyright."
The brief goes on to say the Carlton Dance's first appearance was in a copyrighted work by NBC. "The copyright notice for the episode in which it first appeared...lists solely 'National Broadcasting Company, Inc.' Thus, Plaintiff’s copyright claims fail as his allegation that the 'Dance' was created for an episode owned by NBC means that he has not plausibly alleged ownership of a valid copyright," they wrote.
Ribeiro has also admitted that he lifted the dance in the past.