Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is suing Epic for its alleged use of the “Carlton Dance” without his permission. Ribeiro created the dance for his character, Carlton Banks, on the hit television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He is now seeking compensation from Epic for intellectual property infringement as well as discontinuation of the unlawful use of the dance in Fortnite.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, December 17, 2018 in The United States District Court for the Central District of California claims that the dance is “inextricably linked to Ribeiro and has continued to be a part of his celebrity persona.”
According to Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht, the law firm representing Alfonso Ribeiro, Epic capitalized on the dance without seeking his permission. Even though Fortnite’s “emote” is labeled “Fresh” and not “The Carlton Dance,” the lawsuit states that the dance is easy to recognize by most viewers as a work based on Ribeiro’s likeness. A comparison of the the dances can be seen in this CNET article.
Epic first released the video game franchise, Fortnite, in 2017. The lawsuit claims that Fortnite has become “The Most Popular Video Game Ever” and that the Epic has profited from the popularity of Ribeiro’s intellectual property. Players can purchase the emote as an in game purchase. The complaint requests Ribeiro’s fair compensation as well as punitive damages.
Ribeiro’s law firm has also filed a similar complaint against Take-Two Interactive, Software, Inc. and Visual Concepts Entertainment for copyright infringement of “The Carlton Dance” in the video game NBA 2K16. The lawsuit requests that the companies discontinue use of Ribeiro’s copyrighted material and his likeness as well as an award for damages. The full complaint can be read at Scribd.com.
Neither Epic, Take-Two, or Visual Concepts has issued a comment or released a statement regarding the legal action.