Alfonso Ribeiro Sues Fortnite and NBA 2K for ‘Unfairly Profiting’ From His Carlton Dance

Host Alfonso Ribeiro speaks onstage during the Clio Entertainment Awards 2018 at Dolby Theatre on November 15, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Jesse Grant (Getty Images for Clio Entertainment)

It’s not unusual for Fortnite to be taken to task for swiping everyone’s popular dances without remittance.

This time, it’s the infamous Carlton dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Alfonso Ribeiro’s portrayal of the Banks’ son’s Tom Jones-enthused dance quickly gained popularity and etched itself into pop culture forever—including into popular video games.

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According to CNN, Ribeiro sued the two companies behind Fortnite (Epic Games Inc.) and NBA 2K (Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.), saying that the companies “unfairly profited” from his likeness and “protected creative expression.” Two lawsuits were filed on Monday.

The America’s Funniest Home Videos host is asking for damages and for both companies to stop profiting from his dance. The lawsuit claims Take-Two sold a “Two Fresh” dance as an in-game NBA 2K purchase and is accusing Epic of faking endorsements with their “Fresh Emote” dance from Fortnite Battle Royale.

“Twenty-seven years later, the Dance remains distinctive, immediately recognizable, and inextricably linked to Ribeiro’s identity, celebrity, and likeness,” the lawsuits stated.

Ribeiro’s attorney, David L. Hecht of Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht, LLP, is also representing rapper 2 Milly and Russell Horning (aka “Backpack Kid”) in connection with their respective “Floss” and “Milly Rock” dances.

“Epic intentionally induces others to perform these dances and mark them with those hashtags, which give attribution to and endorse Fortnite the game,” read the lawsuit. “Epic has consistently sought to exploit African-American talent, in particular in Fortnite, by copying their dances and movements and sell them through emotes.”

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Epic announced a highly successful August, reporting 78.3 million players who logged into Fortnite that month.

As Kotaku writer Ethan Gach noted:

Fortnite: Battle Royale is free but profits are being made. Everyone can play it without ever spending a dime. In practice, though, there’s an elaborate market for in-game trinkets and cosmetic accessories, as well as custom emotes so people’s characters can perform popular dance moves. According to estimates by the market research group SuperData, this system earned Fortnite makers over $300 million in May alone. The stuff Epic sells in the game doesn’t just appear out of thin air though, and with all this money sloshing around, Chance and those in agreement with him are wondering what that means for the artists whose work originally inspired these dances.

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Epic and Take-Two have not released comments on the matter at this time.

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Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.