Alfonso Ribeiro from 'Fresh Prince' sues Fortnite creators for stealing 'Carlton Dance'
The video game Fortnite was one of the biggest phenomenons of 2018, and if you don't know what that is, congratulations - you're old! In the third person shooter, you play as a survivor in a zombie apocalypse, but the visuals are cartoonish, not gory. You can choose to collect weapons and go Rambo on the zombies - I mean, "husks" - or show off your creativity by building unique massive forts.
Released in 2017, the multi-player game skyrocketed to popularity this year thanks to it's free-to-play Battle Royale mode. According to Epic Games, Fortnite boasted 78.3 million monthly players as of last September, which is insane. In Battle Royale, players face off against up to one hundred real people to see who will be the last one standing. To make their characters stand out, players can purchase dancing emotes, many of which are based on viral phenomenons. (The Backpack Kid's The Floss, Turk's Poison dance from Scrubs, Jim Carrey's dorky dance from Dumb and Dumber, etc.)
However, Fortnite has faced criticism for stealing popular dances without giving credit. Rapper BlocBoy JB called out the video game creators for jacking his 'Shoot' dance, while rapper 2 Milly took legal action, alleging they ripped off his 'Milly Rock' dance. Now TMZ reports that Alfonso Ribeiro from The Fresh Of Bel-Air is suing Epic Games for stealing his signature 'Carlton Dance.'
If you're not familiar with The Fresh Of Bel-Air, congratulations - you're old! (Or really young.) The classic 90's sitcom starred Will Smith as a street-smart teenager from West Philly who moves in with his wealthy aunt and uncle at their swanky Bel-Air mansion. Alfonso Ribeiro played Carlton Banks, Will's caring, but cocky cousin. As a nerdy preppy, Carlton loved busting a move to Tom Jones. His hilarious recurring 'Carlton Dance' became iconic, and yes, he reprised it on Dancing With The Stars in 2014.
In the documents obtained by TMZ, Alfonso claims that Fortnite's "Fresh emote," released on January 2, 2018, is a carbon copy of the Carlton Dance, which he is in the process of copyrighting. (Today I learned you can copyright dances.) His lawyer, Alfonso's attorney, David Hecht of Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, explained to the media outlet why they are taking legal action:
"It is widely recognized that Mr. Ribeiro’s likeness and intellectual property have been misappropriated by Epic Games in the most popular video game currently in the world, Fortnite. Epic has earned record profits off of downloadable content in the game, including emotes like 'Fresh.' Yet Epic has failed to compensate or even ask permission from Mr. Ribeiro for the use of his likeness and iconic intellectual property."
In 2013, Alfonso explained to Buzzfeed how he created the dance: "There was a video of Bruce Springsteen and Courtney Cox called 'Dancing in the Dark', and Bruce Springsteen pulls her up onto the stage and she basically does that dance... It was also from Eddie Murphy's 'Delirious' comedy video where he does 'The White Man Dance.' What I did was ultimately take those two dances and combined them and made it my own, and made it my character's."
Basically, Fortnite is making a kajillion dollars and everyone wants a piece. (If only we had Uncle Phil to sort this all out!) Anyway, I'm going to go try to come up with a viral dance; apparently, they're quite lucrative.