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US Copyright Office denies 'Carlton Dance' protection request

By Cal Jeffrey · 11 replies
Feb 15, 2019
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  1. The initial lawsuit by 2 Milly seemed to spark a deluge of similar complaints. Fellow rapper BlocBoy JB is suing. Two juveniles commonly known as Orange Shirt Kid and Backpack Kid, with the help and coaxing of their parents, have also jumped onto the dog pile wanting a slice of Epic's lucrative Fortnite pie.

    More notably than most would have to be Alfonso Ribeiro’s case stating that he is owed money for the “Carlton Dance,” which he originally performed on the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Epic mimicked the iconic dance and gave it the not-so-original name “Fresh.”

    Documents from the US Copyright Office, uncovered by The Hollywood Reporter, revealed that the registrar denied issuance of copyright to Ribeiro for his dance moves. This decision should not come as a surprise if you’ve been reading along.

    Like Ribeiro, 2 Milly was also applying for copyright protection after the fact. As we reported at the time, the USCO’s guidelines for copyrighting dance moves are very clear.

    “To qualify for registration, a choreographic work or pantomime must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression in such a way that reveals the movements in sufficient detail to permit the work to be performed in a consistent and uniform manner. Individual movements or dance steps by themselves are not copyrightable, such as the basic waltz step, the hustle step, the grapevine, or the second position in classical ballet. The U.S. Copyright Office cannot register short dance routines consisting of only a few movements or steps with minor linear or spatial variations, even if a routine is novel or distinctive.”

    Therefore, the few moves that make up the “Carlton,” “Milly Rock,” or any of the other brief dances that Epic has “stolen” cannot be copyrighted.

    Ribeiro’s lawsuit was iffy even were his moves able to be copyrighted. For one, his dance is not all that original. In fact, in 2015 he admitted that his jig was based on moves by Eddie Murphy and the nervous dance Courtney Cox did in Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark” video. Furthermore, since Ribeiro performed the steps while employed by NBC and during the course of his work on the show, that would make NBC the copyright owner, not him.

    While his copyright protection request has been squashed, his lawsuit has not been settled yet, but it does not look good. Earlier this week Kotaku reported that Epic has asked for a dismissal of 2 Milly’s complaint. It argues that the moves are too short to copyright. The USCO denial of Ribeiro’s request would seem to support that reasoning. Lawyers add that the “Swipe” emote is also different enough from the Milly Rock to avoid infringement.

    It will be interesting to see how the courts rule on all these cases, but I think that once one of them goes down the rest will fall in short order.

    Permalink to story.

  2. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 814   +399

  3. trparky

    trparky TS Evangelist Posts: 533   +425

    Happy to hear that someone in the US Copyright Office has a functioning brain.
    Uncle Al, JaredTheDragon and lipe123 like this.
  4. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,195   +1,617

    I think suing Epic over dances moves is pretty dumb. It would be nice, once all the dancing lawsuits settle down, if Epic would give a props for the dance moves. Like "Inspired by Alfonso Ribeiro" but I bet that will never happen because of legal reasons.
  5. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,237   +895

    Uncle Al likes this.
  6. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,969   +2,274

    Sounds like consistency. A while back, someone tried to patent yoga asanas and they were denied. To me, dance moves are not that much different from yoga asanas.
  7. syrious01

    syrious01 TS Rookie Posts: 24   +18

    Honestly, I was hoping they would win the case against Epic. Fortnite sucks and stealing intellectual property or dance moves, copyrighted or not without permission is a **** move.

    Suck a fat one Epic.
  8. Lew Zealand

    Lew Zealand TS Guru Posts: 664   +556

    Legally no IP or dance moves were stolen, that's the point of this article and the Copyright Office decision. All this Epic h8 seems to be sour grapes or jealousy. They make a ton of money, so what?
  9. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,992   +3,478

    Just like to point out that the Carlton dance is in fact non-original. Even if they could give him the copyright they wouldn't because he's not the first to do it.
  10. Thrackerzod

    Thrackerzod TS Booster Posts: 58   +43

    Good. He must be a bigger goofball than his character was; how do you copyright a dance?
  11. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,385   +3,775

    Once again, the law prevails. Think of it; if they upheld his claim nearly every "move" out there would be subject to patent. Imagine having to pay a royalty fee every time you took a dump, leaned sideways to break wind, or even walked across the room. Once you open that door you're stuck with the results. Doubt me? Just look at the act signed by George Bush that allowed spying on Americans. Now days you can hardly walk down a street, drive down a road, or go in a public building without being photographed, taped, and recorded to death. The old claim that "if you're not guilty you have nothing to fear" .... that has been disproved over and over again through a number of malicious prosecutions across the country. You privacy has been sacrificed .... are you ready for more?
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  12. mctommy

    mctommy TS Addict Posts: 297   +68

    It was and it wasn't. Courtney Cox and Eddie Murphy were the basis of the Carlton's dance but it's the gusto and over the top Alfonso is what makes the Carlton's dance the Carlton's dance.

    At the end of the day, there were other video games that stole that move before fortnite...

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