The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Alfonso Ribeiro and 'Backpack Kid' sue Epic over Fortnite emotes

Image source: Dancing With the Stars Wiki

Alfonso Ribeiro, known to the world for his portrayal of Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, has filed a lawsuit against Epic Games over its use of his signature "Carlton" dance in Fortnite. The lawsuit follows one filed earlier this month by rapper 2 Milly, who claimed that his Milly Rock dance appears in Fortnite, without credit or compensation, as the "Swipe It" emote. 

Ribiero's lawsuit claims that he created and first performed "The Dance," as the suit calls it, in 1991 during the "Will's Christmas Show" episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and that it remains "distinctive, immediately recognizable, and inextricably linked to Ribeiro's identity, celebrity, and likeness." It references his performance of the dance on Dancing With the Stars (which he won, by the way, along with partner Witney Carson), during a celebrity golf tournament with Stephen Curry and Justin Timberlake, and alongside Will and Jaden Smith during a 2013 appearance on the Graham Norton Show.   

"The Dance has become synonymous with Ribeiro, who is unanimously credited with creating The Dance," the lawsuit states. "Ribeiro has also been interviewed several times about the creation of The Dance and how to properly perform it. Accordingly, The Dance is a part of Ribeiro’s identity and The Dance’s unique movements readily evoke a connection to Ribeiro." 

Epic, meanwhile, is making a killing on Fortnite: The suit repeats many of the claims made in the 2 Milly filing, including estimates that Fortnite has earned between $1-2 billion through in-game purchases and Bloomberg's estimate that Epic's valuation could hit $8.5 billion by the end of the year. It also notes a number of celebrity dance move lookalikes used without credit in the game, including Milly Rock, Donald Faison's dance moves from Scrubs, and the Carlton, which appears as the "Fresh" emote in Fortnite.

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"Epic uses The Dance, and other dances, to create the false impression that Epic started these dances and crazes or that the performer who created them is endorsing the game," the suit says. "Indeed, Epic induces others and/or contributes to their performance and false attribution of The Dance. Fortnite Players have posted thousands of videos of themselves performing the 'Fresh' emote with the hashtag, #fortnitedance, without referencing The Dance or crediting Ribeiro as The Dance’s creator and owner." 

"Epic has made a fortune from unlawfully and unfairly misappropriating Ribeiro’s and other artists’ creative expression, likeness, and endorsement without crediting or compensating these artists." 

The lawsuit seeks a restraining order that will prevent Epic from selling or otherwise using the "Fresh" emote in Fortnite, damages, legal fees, and "such other and further relief as the Court may deem proper." As with the 2 Milly case, an Epic rep said that the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Update: Russell Horning, also known as Backpack Kid, has filed a suit of his own against Epic for its use of his dance move "The Russell" as a Fortnite emote called Floss, again without permission or compensation. Horning and his dance gained popularity on YouTube when Rihanna shared one of his videos on YouTube; in 2017 he gained a further boost when he appeared on Saturday Night Live, performing his dance as part of Katy Perry's musical performance. Horning's lawsuit, filed on his behalf by his mother Anita Redd, seeks a restraining order against the further use of his dance in Fortnite, damages, and legal fees. 

Ribeiro and Horning have also filed suits against Take-Two Interactive, 2K Games, Visual Concepts Entertainment, and various individuals for using their dance moves in the NBA 2K series.   

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.