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Fresh Prince's Alfonso Ribeiro pursuing legal action over Fortnite's Carlton Dance

Epic Games not coming up with their own dance moves continues to cause trouble for mega-popular shooter Fortnite Battle Royale. As reported by TMZ, actor Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air) is suing Epic for cribbing his famously daft dance for use in the game as a premium emote sold in-game.

Ribeiro is in the process of copyrighting the dance, and while I think the concept of short, comedic dances being intellectual property is a bit mad, this isn’t unprecedented.  Rapper 2 Milly is is already looking to take the studio to court, and others have complained before. Plus, as you’ll see below, this isn’t the first game to use the Carlton Dance.

For those of us who aren’t nineties kids or somehow missed one of the defining sitcoms of decades past, here’s Carlton demonstrating his moves before being browbeaten into submission by Will Smith.

And here’s the lawyer-baitingly titled ‘Fresh’ dance in Fortnite, accompanied by some very sub Tom Jones jams.

Just off the top of my head, this isn’t the first game to crib from Carlton’s iconic boogie. Guild Wars 2’s half-giant Norn break into a familiar looking dance when they’re expressing their joy. The similarities are even more obvious when you’ve got a little Tom Jones going, as you can see here:

And Destiny went and cribbed it in the form of the Enthusiastic emote, and Destiny 2 just has bucketloads of similarly borrowed moves.

You could say that… it’s not unusual. That’s part of the problem though – according to TMZ, Ribeiro has filed suit against 2K games for using the dance in NBA 2K as well, putting all of the above in the crosshairs, too. Ownership of choreography and the law surrounding it is a bit wooly, especially in America, as it only came into effect in 1976 according to this legal blog. I’m also a little confused by the statement given to TMZ by Ribeiro’s attorney, David Hecht:

“It is widely recognized that Mr. Ribeiro’s likeness and intellectual property have been misappropriated by Epic Games in the most popular video game currently in the world, Fortnite.”

Intellectual property? Maybe. Likeness? I’m not so sure about that, unless I’ve missed a premium player model inspired by Carlton Banks. NotJohn Wick it ain’t. Still, I’m not a lawyer, and this stuff is ferociously complex and often up to the interpretation of judges. Still, even if they do lose a legal fight over this, I doubt Epic will be feeling the sting too badly over this even in the worst case scenario, given Fortnite’s global enormousness.

Still trying to get to grips with Fortnite? Check out our Fortnite guide hub for more tips and tricks for the game. You can also find the latest challenges in our Fortnite weekly challenges guide.

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Dominic Tarason

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