After 2 Milly and Alfonso Ribeiro, the mum of Russell ‘The Backpack Kid’ Horning is suing Epic Games over Fortnite. Who is Horning? Well, it was his video last year that helped turn flossing into a dance that substitutes for a viral phenomenon and an idle animation for many young children.
It now seems that anyone and everyone who can is trying to get a slice of the prospective profits from this litigation, but it’s highly questionable whether anyone of them have a case. Ribeiro is most likely, as ‘The Carlton Dance’ that he created during his time on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air could be viewed as a loosely choreographed dance, stringing together a few different steps and moves over the course of a few minutes, but the US courts have ruled on several occasions that short dance steps can’t be covered by copyright laws. 2 Milly’s Milly Rock and The Backpack Kid’s Floss are both single moves, and so almost certainly not going to win in the courts.
The other problem is who created the dances. I don’t think there’s any question over the Milly Rock, but many people point to Ribeiro’s own admission that he was inspired by Courtney Cox’s simple moves in a the Bruce Springsteen music video Dancing in the Dark, mashing it together with a bit of Eddie Murphy, but that’s arguably transformative as a comedic work.
Flossing is an entirely different matter. It goes way back to 2012 and even earlier, with one of the first recorded instances of this coming in a 2012 video titled You Are Beautiful – Grantsville West Stake (One Direction Lip Dub).
What seems to be more likely is that they’re not going after Fortnite for the dance itself, but rather for the imitation and use of their celebrity and image. The Fresh emote is an almost perfect match for one particular rendition of Ribeiro performing the Carlton, and is indelibly associated with him and his character.
Interestingly, all three of these complaints are being handled by Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht, a lawfirm that’s clearly seen an opportunity and are chancing their arm at wringing some money out of the Fortnite and NBA 2K cash cows, hoping that the mounting pressure can get something out of them.