Takeaway: Simple dance routines are not creative enough to merit copyright protection as choreography according to the Copyright Office.
Recently, the Copyright Office denied the “Carlton dance” copyright protection. The Copyright Office reasoned that the Carlton dance was merely a simple routine that did not reach the level of creativity for protection under the copyright laws. Typically, choreographic works, such as extensive dance routines you may see at a play or dance competition, are considered to be copyrightable. However, a simple set of dance steps is not enough to be copyrightable.
With that said, Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air that made the Carlton dance popular in the first place, has sued Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive Software for using the dance in their video games. Alfonso Ribeiro has alleged in the lawsuit that he owns a copyright in the dance routine.
Photo Credit: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/video-games/carlton-dance-suit-against-fortnite-may-have-two-left-feet-n949641