PureDWTS Alfonso Ribeiro Sues Fortnite Creators Over Their Use of the “Carlton Dance” (POLL)

So, this is admittedly a bit DWTS-adjacent, but given that this topic has somewhat been touched on in the past here (and there’s not much to report on DWTS at the moment, outside of tour updates), I figured “Why not see what our readers think?”

For those of you who haven’t heard, news broke this morning that season 19 DWTS champ Alfonso Ribeiro actually filed two separate lawsuits against Epic Games (the creators of Fortnite) and Take Two Interactive (the creators of the NBA 2K series) for their use of his famous “Carlton Dance”:

Carlton wants his dance back.

Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is suing to stop two video game developers from selling a dance popularized by his “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” character.
In two lawsuits filed Monday, Ribeiro said the companies have “unfairly profited” from using his likeness and from exploiting his “protected creative expression.” The suits name Fortnite developer Epic Games Inc., and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., creator of the NBA 2K series, and several of its subsidiaries.
Epic Games declined to comment on the lawsuit. Take-Two subsidiary 2K Games did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuits ask a California federal court to bar the game developers from using, selling or displaying the dance. The suits state that Ribeiro is in the process of copyrighting the dance.
Ok, so right off the bat, I’ve gotta raise my eyebrows a bit at the fact that Fonz is “in the process of copyrighting the dance”, but doesn’t have it copyrighted YET. I think it might be hard to prove copyright infringement if you don’t even officially own the copyright yet (and the question remains whether you can truly copyright a dance at all – more on that later). I also find the timing a bit curious, as both Fortnite and NBA 2K have been around for over a year (the latter definitely longer, though I don’t know how long they’ve been using the dance), and Fonz is just now slapping them with a suit. But I digress…
…I’ve said more than once that I think copyrighting specific dance moves is a slippery slope – given that dance is an art form that has very much evolved from collaboration and various individual moves slowly becoming widely-known pieces of dance vocabulary, I think granting people the ability to copyright certain moves has a potential chilling effect on dance as a whole. I’m all for people getting credit for their intellectual property, but I think within a dance context that should be applied to entire choreographic works, rather than just specific moves…particularly very simplistic ones, like “The Carlton”, which I think could be argued is a very natural movement that pre-dates Alfonso making it his “thing”. Alfonso has even admitted that he basically came up with the dance just by watching a young Courteney Cox dancing onstage with Bruce Springsteen in the “Dancing in the Dark” video, and imitating Eddie Murphy’s “White People Dance” from his Raw standup performance. All that being said – Alfonso might still have (somewhat of) a leg to stand on.  Check out this post from a trademark lawyer’s website, titled “Can I Trademark a Dance?” – it basically says you can trademark the NAME of a dance, but not necessarily the move itself. So if I’m interpreting it correctly, Alfonso might be able to claim that the move is called “The Carlton” (especially since the Fortnite character that does it supposedly looks a lot like his Fresh Prince character) but I don’t know that he can really claim to have invented the dance and own exclusive rights to it in any capacity. And who the hell knows how you go about monetizing that type of trademark. But here’s where I think it gets even more complicated: I’m not even sure that Alfonso owns the rights to the character of Carlton Banks – it’s hard telling, but I think most of the rights to the characters on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actually belong to Andy & Susan Borowitz, the show’s creators, and to a lesser degree, Benny Medina (whose life experiences the show was loosely based on).  So does he really have the capacity to say “This is the Carlton dance!” when he himself might not even own the rights to the character that performed it…? I dunno…it all seems pretty murky to me, and it seems like a bit of a cash grab on Alfonso’s part.
But what do you guys think? Vote in the poll below and speak your mind in the comments!