US Copyright Office Denies ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Actor’s ‘Carlton Dance’ Copyright Application

Written by on February 17, 2019

Maria Agcopra – Fourth Estate Contributor

Los Angeles, CA, United States (4E) – The US Copyright Office refused to approve the copyright application for the ‘Carlton Dance’, which was filed by ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ actor Alfonso Ribeiro. The Copyright Office’s action will likely weaken Ribeiro’s lawsuits against two game developers which he claims used his signature dance illegally without his consent.

The denial was revealed on Wednesday in a motion to dismiss the actor’s lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive, which published ‘NBA 2K16’, Court documents indicate that the application was denied because the three moves that comprise the ‘Carlton Dance’ are too simple and basic to make up a piece of choreography unique only to Ribeiro, making it unqualified to be covered by the copyright law.

“The fact that a dance or movement may contain more than a trivial amount of original authorship is irrelevant to this determination,” the US Copyright Office said in a letter addressed to Ribeiro’s legal team. The agency explained that “Social dances, simple routines, and other uncopyrightable movements” are not within the contemplation of law of “choreographic works” that are covered and protected by Section 102(a)(4) of the Copyright Act. As such, Ribeiro’s ‘Carlton Dance’ cannot be considered for copyright, even if it contains a “substantial amount of original, creative expression.”

The actor filed lawsuits against Take-Two and Epic in December last year. In its filing, he claimed that the publishers copied his dance and benefited from it without his permission through the sales from the games, Variety reports.

According to Ribeiro, he created ‘Carlton Dance’ in 1991 for an episode of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. He argues that the dance is intimately linked to him and his persona as a celebrity and television character.

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