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Fortnite dance off: Fresh Prince star refused copyright on 'Carlton Dance'

The legal skirmish between Epic Games and those who claim to own the dance moves used as emotes in Fortnite is heating up. 

The legal skirmish between Epic Games and those who claim to own the dance moves used as emotes in Fortnite is heating up. 

As highlighted by The Hollywood Reporter, the U.S. copyright office has refused to register Fresh Prince star Alfonso Ribeiro's well-known Carlton dance, which was popularized in the hit '90s sitcom.

The actor (along with a number of other celebrities) is currently suing Epic Games for allegedly misappropriating and profiting from the move, which he claims makes an appearance in Fortnite as the 'Fresh' emote. 

In a bid to bolster his case against Epic, Ribeiro is attempting to secure the copyright to the dance move, but the U.S. Copyright Office isn't playing ball, and in correspondence from last December claims three dance steps aren't registrable as a choreographic work. 

"The dancer sways their hips as they step from side to side, while swinging their arms in an exaggerated manner," wrote Saskia Florence, a member of the Copyright Office's Performing Arts division. 

"In the second dance step, the dancer takes two steps to each side while opening and closing their legs and their arms in unison. In the final step, the dancer's feet are still and they lower one hand from above their head to the middle of their chest while fluttering their fingers.

"The combination of these three dance steps is a simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work."

Yesterday, Epic urged courts to dismiss a similar case brought against the studio by rapper 2 Milly. Like Ribeiro, 2 Milly (a.k.a. Terrance Ferguson) claims the Fortnite dev stole his 'Milly Rock' dance move and recreated it in-game

In response, Epic claimed that "no one can own a dance step," and that lawsuits like Ribeiro and 2 Milly's are "fundamentally at odds with free speech." 

"Plaintiff's lawsuit is fundamentally at odds with free speech principles as it attempts to impose liability, and thereby chill creative expression, by claiming rights that do not exist under the law," wrote Epic's attorney Dale Cendali. 

"No one can own a dance step. Copyright law is clear that individual dance steps and simple dance routines are not protected by copyright, but rather are building blocks of free expression, which are in the public domain for choreographers, dancers, and the general public to use, perform, and enjoy."

Although the U.S. Copyright Office has refused to register Ribeiro's dance, the actor's lawsuit against Epic is still ongoing.

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