Alfonso Riberio is well known for his role as Carlton, and in particular, his dance moves, in the popular TV programme Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Back in December 2018 the actor launched legal proceedings as he claimed the popular video game Fortnight had unfairly profited from the Carlton dance, as characters within the game were performing the infamous dance. Riberio’s legal representation argued that his “likeness and intellectual property” had been “misappropriated” by Epic Games, the developer of Fortnight, and thus Riberio sought his fair and reasonable share of the profits Epic had earned using his Intellectual Property.
Last month Riberio’s claim crumbled as the US Copyright Office rejected his attempt to register the Carlton Dance, stating that it is not registerable as a choreographic work. In order to register “choreographic work” it must be “substantial”, the US Copyright Office plainly stated that the Carlton dance was merely a simple routine (In the same vein a word can’t be copyrighted but a song can be). There was also concern around whether Riberio even owned the rights to the dance and whether he could copyright it, as it appeared that NBC holds the copyright to the episode in which Riberio performed the move.
The upshot of the above is that within US copyright law it appears the legal question around whether someone can own a dance move / routine is now largely settled.