In a new development in the ongoing lawsuits against Epic Games for its use of popular dances as emotes, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro might have a steeper claim to climb. As of January 22, according to a recently surfaced document in California federal court, the U.S. Copyright Office rejected Ribeiro's request to copyright the routine.
The reasoning behind it is because the dance is too "simple," with a supervisory registration specialist with the U.S. Copyright Office outlining that choreography is not "synonymous with 'dance,'" the former being copyrightable. In observing the dance, both on the reality show Dancing with the Stars and on the sitcom Fresh Prince, the examiner boils it down to three simple moves, which is thus not a full choreographic work.
"Social dances, simple routines, and other uncopyrightable movements are not "choreographic works," the rejection letter from the Office says. "As such, they cannot be registered, even if they contain a substantial amount or original, creative expression."
Ribeiro is also involved in a lawsuit against Take-Two, the publisher behind NBA 2K, for the same issue with Fortnite. Earlier this week, Epic Games' lawyers urged a judge to dismiss the lawsuit with rapper 2 Milly over the "Milly Rock"-like dance emote, falling under the same claim that Ribeiro's been hit with: that the dance is too simple and cannot be copyrighted. Epic's defense goes on to say that the two dances are only slightly related, and goes into detail to describe its minute differences. 2 Milly's lawyers insist the dance is copyrightable because it's choreography.
In response to the recent lawsuits, Playground Games even removed its own Carlton dance alongside the Flossing emote from Forza Horizon 4, presumably to avoid any such lawsuits like what Take-Two and Epic Games have been struck with. While Ribeiro being denied protection under copyright law for the Carlton Dance isn't the nail in the coffin for his lawsuit, it's definitely a nod in Epic Games and Take-Two's favor in the future.
The controversy over emotes based on popular dances in video games kicked off in the past year with Fortnite's success, with 2 Milly being among the first of many musicians calling Epic Games out on appropriating dances from black artists for its own profit with no credit where it was due. The recent lawsuits filed by 2 Milly, Ribeiro, and others are just the first step towards reclaiming what's been stripped and renamed from them, but with these recent developments, it might unfortunately be another step back.