The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on the show, is the latest person to sue Epic Games over the use of emotes.
He joins rapper 2 Milly in lawsuits concerning the legality of Epic using emotes based on their dances in Fortnite.
2 Milly is the creator of the “Milly Rock” which he alleges the “Swipe It” emote is based off. The resemblance is so close that many players just call the emote the Milly Rock.
Ribeiro’s claim relates to the use of the “Carlton Dance.” A classic dance move used by the often awkward character on the show, The Carlton is a distinct move.
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In the game, the emote is called “Fresh” a fairly clear nod to the emote’s origins on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Here’s where these claims run into issues. It is hard to copyright a dance move because there are only so many ways a human body can move, so taking full credit for the creation of a dance is tough to prove.
In addition, the Carlton dance may not have started with Ribeiro.
In a 2015 interview with Her, Ribeiro says the dance was inspired by a combination of Bruce Springsteen, Courtney Cox and Eddie Murphy.
Here’s the original Carlton dance from the Fresh Prince:
Now here’s Springsteen and Cox at the end of the “Dancing in the Dark” music video to compare:
And finally, here is a gif of Eddie Murphy doing his “White Man Dance” from a stand-up routine:
Because no dance is ever 100% unique and original, claiming a copyright on a dance is difficult. While full choreography can be copyrighted, that doesn’t include “social dance steps and simple routines,” according to a Wired article about 2 Milly’s suit.
So as the courts deliberate over these pending lawsuits, Epic will have a team of lawyers trying to knock down the claims. If they are unsuccessful, many other dance originators could have cases to make against Epic Games.