Fortnite's Epic Games Sued Over 'Carlton' Dance Usage

Alfonso Ribeiro, of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame, has sued Fortnite developer Epic Games over the use of the ‘Carlton’ dance that he popularized in the hit 1990’s TV show. The dance, which has become somewhat of a meme over the years with its popularity sky rocketing in the ‘00s and ‘10s, was certainly a hilariously lovely moment in the original TV show.

The issue that the lawsuit centralizes on is Epic Games profiting off of the dance (while I won’t install and boot up Fortnite for this article, it seems the emote costs 800 “V Bucks” which would require you to spend about $10), Ribeiro not currently owning the copyright to the dance, and whether or not the dance is Ribeiro’s to copyright. Important to note is that dances/choreography can be copyrighted in the USA and that this dance emote is only available via purchase in Fortnite. The same dance does appear in other games, but in those games, like Destiny 2, it can be unlocked without paying for it.

On the first point; yes, it’s true Epic Games is profiting off of a dance move they didn’t invent and that is only available via purchase in their game. On the second point, it seems odd to me that Ribeiro wouldn’t wait to sue Epic until the result of his copyright request was returned. And third, it seems we don’t know whether the dance was created by Ribeiro or potentially a choreographer for the show, and even beyond that Ribeiro was being paid by NBC Productions and so I imagine it could be argued that NBC in fact owns the rights to the copyright (if approved).

While I don’t think it’s productive for the internet to be the judge and jury here, I do think it’s important to recognize the facts above and understand that Epic Games really is profiting off of something they didn’t invent, an argument you could honestly apply to the entire Fortnite game. It’ll be truly interesting to see the result of this case in court and I imagine it’ll likely have some impact on the future of what’s included in games, particularly multiplayer experiences.