The question of whether dances are freely available to be reproduced without concern has been fairly open over the years, but Epic’s Fortnite seems to have brought the discussion up to a more mainstream level. A number of artists and critics have chided Epic for stealing dances from people and cultures to profit from, but until 2 Milly recently filed an official complaint, no one had decided to test these waters. Now another popular dance is being put in the spotlight.
Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton in the 1990s NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is suing Epic over a dance called Fresh. In the TV show, Carlton would exemplify his lack of dancing skills by swinging his arms side to side and snapping, usually to music by Tom Jones. The Fortnite dance is immediately recognizable as the Carlton’s dance from The Fresh Prince, with even the name evoking the show’s title.
Ribeiro’s law firm is alleging that Epic stole his dance and recreated it in Fortnite and is now profiting off of it from the game’s store. He was also mentioned in 2 Milly’s lawsuit by name as another dance creator whose moves were stolen.
While dances are protected, they can only be done if the ownership of the dance can be definitively pinpointed. In most cases, that is done through the copyright holder. In 2 Milly’s case, the Milly Rock Dance had not been copyrighted, but the rapper says he is in the process of doing so. Ribeiro’s law firm has not said anything either way about whether the actor, or perhaps the production company or even NBC, possesses a copyright for the Carlton dance.
The Fresh Prince dance has been reproduced in a number of video games like Saints Row and Destiny.