Alfonso Ribeiro loses copyright bid for his goofy ‘Carlton dance,’ dismissed as a ‘simple routine’

Alfonso Ribeiro, seen during the "Dancing With The Stars: Live!" tour in 2014, was denied copyright registration for his "Carlton" dance.
(Brett Carlsen / Getty Images)
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Alfonso Ribeiro’s “Carlton dance,” made famous on the 1990s sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” won’t be issued a copyright registration. The ownership claim was put forth by Ribeiro, who became known for the exaggerated way he swung his hips in a 1991 episode of the show.

In a document from California federal courts released this week, Saskia Florence, a supervisory registration specialist with the U.S. Copyright Office, told David Hecht, Ribeiro’s lawyer, that the goofy moves are a “simple dance routine.”

“The dancer sways their hips as they step from side to side, while swinging their arms in an exaggerated manner,” Florence wrote to Ribeiro’s attorney. She goes on to describe more of the dance moves, concluding that “the combination of these three dance steps is a simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work.”


Florence added that it didn’t matter that Ribeiro brought his own flair to his dance. “The fact that a dance or movement may contain more than a trivial amount of original authorship is irrelevant to this determination. Social dances, simple routines and other uncopyrightable movements are not ‘choreographic works.’”

In December, Ribeiro filed several copyright infringement lawsuits against Take-Two Interactive, publisher of “NBA 2K” and Epic Games, publisher of “Fortnite,” claiming they unfairly copied his “Carlton dance” in games.

Though the actor didn’t win this battle of the waltz, his silly dance moves helped him and pro dance partner Witney Carson win 2014’s “Dancing With the Stars.”