On January 22, 2019, the US Copyright Office refused registration for “The Carlton” dance.  “The Carlton” was made famous by Mr Alfonso Ribeiro (Ribeiro) through his performance on the early 90’s TV show, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".  In issuing its decision to deny registration, the US Copyright Office stated that “The Carlton” dance is a “simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work.” 

Ribeiro is one of several performers to recently file a claim for copyright infringement against video game creator Epic Games for its use of dance moves as character upgrades in its popular video game Fortnite.  Rapper 2 Milly also filed a claim for copyright infringement against Epic Games as previously reported in the E-TIPS® Newsletter here.  2 Milly’s attempt to register his “Milly Rock” dance with the US Copyright Office was similarly refused.

Epic Games recently filed a motion to dismiss 2 Milly’s claim for copyright infringement.  In its memorandum, Epic Games states that 2 Milly’s “lawsuit is fundamentally at odds with free speech principles as it attempts to impose liability, and thereby chill creative expression, by claiming rights that do not exist under the law.  No one can own a dance step.”

The court is not bound by the decision of the US Copyright Office, however it will likely take it into consideration when deciding whether to dismiss the case.

Summary By: Michelle Noonan


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