Singer-actor Alfonso Ribeiro, who choreographed what has become known as his signature "Carlton" dance, is suing two video game companies for what he says is unauthorized use of that intellectual property in "Fornite Battle Royale" and "NBA 2K16."
In twin lawsuits filed Monday and provided to Newsday, Ribeiro, 47 — who created the dance for his character Carlton Banks on NBC's 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" — says Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive Software "have unfairly profited from exploiting Ribeiro's protected creative expression."
The suits say Ribeiro continues to perform the dance — including with Will Smith and others in a BBC video garnering more than 69 million YouTube views, and with Justin Timberlake and Steph Curry at a 2016 celebrity golf event — and call it "a part of Ribeiro's identity." The documents contend that the companies did not credit him or seek permission to use the dance, which is performed by avatars available for in-game purchase. These dancing "emotes" are labeled "Fresh" in Epic's "Fortnite" and "So Fresh" in Take-Two's "NBA 2K16."
The lawsuits filed by the Los Angeles firm Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht each allege six causes of action, including copyright infringement, violation of California right-of-publicity laws and unfair competition, and ask for unspecified damages.
A Take-Two spokesman said the company does not comment on legal matters. Epic Games' representative did not respond to a Newsday request for comment.
The free online, multiplayer game "Fortnite" debuted in September 2017 and has set industry records, earning more than $1 billion in in-game purchases as of July, according to figures from the Nielsen company SuperData. Take-Two said in August that the "NBA 2K" franchise from its label 2K and subsidiary studio Visual Concepts Entertainment, which also are parties to that suit, has sold more than 80 million units worldwide.
Earlier this month, rapper 2 Milly also filed suits against Epic Games and Take-Two's 2K, alleging that dances in "Fortnite Battle Royale" and the "NBA 2K' franchise illegally replicate his "Milly Rock."
Ribeiro, who won "Dancing With the Stars" season 19 in 2014, hosts "America's Funniest Home Videos," and in addition to performing is a TV director.