Fresh Prince star sues makers of Fortnite and NBA 2K over his dance
Alfonso Ribeiro's lawsuit against Epic Games follows a similar case by New York-based rapper 2 Milly
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro is suing the creators of Fortnite and NBA 2K for using his famous dance in two of the most popular video games out right now.
In separate lawsuits filed Monday in federal court in California, Alfonso Ribeiro alleges that Fortnite maker, Epic Games and 2K Sports creator, Take-Two Interactive used his dance dubbed "The Carlton Dance" without permission or credit.
Ribeiro's dance was popularized through his character, Carlton Banks, on the 1990's sitcom. Ribeiro has been quoted saying he took inspiration for the dance from two places: Courtney Cox's moves in the Bruce Springsteen video for Dancing in the Dark, and Eddie Murphy's dance moves in his famous Delirious standup TV special from the 1980s.
He says North Carolina-based Epic Games and Delaware-based Take-Two Interactive used his dance, that he first performed on a 1991 Christmas episode. He's asking for a judge's order to stop both games from using his moves.
Ribeiro says he is currently in the middle of copyrighting the dance. He is being represented by American firm Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP.
"Epic has earned record profits off of downloadable content in the game, including emotes like 'Fresh,'" Ribeiro's lawyer David Hecht wrote in an email statement to CBC News. "Yet Epic has failed to compensate or even ask permission from Mr. Ribeiro for the use of his likeness and iconic intellectual property."
The lawsuit has Ribeiro seeking compensation based on the profits alleged to have been earned by Epic Games through the "Fresh" emote in Fortnite.
Emotes are available for purchase in both Fortnite and NBA 2K. They are animations allowing players to customize their characters through personalized dance moves.
The law firm is currently pursuing similar claims against NBA 2K developer Take-Two Interactive and its subsidiary, Visual Concepts, on behalf of Ribeiro, who was the winner of the 19th season of Dancing With the Stars.
According to Forbes, Fortnite has made over $1 billion US since its release in July 2017.
Epic Games spokesperson Nick Chester responded in an email statement to CBC News saying, "we do not comment on ongoing litigation."
Take-Two Interactive media relations did not respond to requests for comment.
Past and present claimants
Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive are also now facing heat from Russel Horning, or "Backpack Kid" as he is known after making an appearance that went viral on Katy Perry's Saturday Night Live performance in 2017.
Horning's move, known as "The Floss," is being linked to an emote of the exact same name in Fortnite.
Watch the original appearance by the Backpack Kid on SNL:
Watch the video game verson of the Backpack Kid's dance:
Horning, who is also represented by the Pierce Bainbridge firm, is another high-profile social media star who has sued Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive for similar claims.
David Hecht, who is a partner with the firm, told CBC News Horning's two lawsuits include claims of copyright infringement, trademark infringement and misappropriation.
Horning's mother filed the lawsuits on behalf of her 16-year-old son.
Hecht informed CBC News that negotiations are ongoing with the goal of "fair compensation" in mind. He went on to say that should the two video game companies decide to purchase the dance move for use in their games, the option to sell would be considered.
Earlier this month, New York-based rapper 2 Milly sparked discussion over whether a dance could be copyrighted when he filed his lawsuit against Epic Games. His lawsuit alleges that the company renamed and included his signature dance move in Fortnite without permission or credit. All three claimants are being represented by Pierce Bainbridge.
Here's Fortnite's 'Swipe It' dance vs. 2 Milly's 'Milly Rock'
With files from Zulekha Nathoo, Deana Sumanac-Johnson, Sharon Wu and CBC News