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Choreography and Copyrights

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#1 dirac


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Posted 14 August 2001 - 02:33 PM

Below is a link to an article on the Graham/Protas decision and broader issues in the area of dance copyright, by David Finkle for the Village Voice. He also looks at how various choreographers are treating the issue -- Merce Cunningham does his own notations and videotapes, while others take a more what-will-be-will-be approach. An unsettling quote from David Gordon: "[Copyright] continues to be a vague thing, because it's hard to believe it will ever matter. All articles about the dance world to the contrary, dance is the poor stepchild. You can't sell it. If you sell your dance, you have to sell the person who does it along with it. Having fought the battle, over the years, of attempting to have dance taken seriously as an art form and not having seen great success in that venture—quite the opposite—I just wonder what we're saving, what the battle is about."

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 August 2001 - 05:43 PM

This most thoughtful and information-filled article points up the rising concern for clarity in copyright, and the ungainly and exorbitant (IMO) procedures the copyright law places on the copyright holders/creators of dance. Now, even using phrases may constitute infringement of copyright, and may be actionable. :eek: One wonders how "fair use" is decided in the such cases? Number of steps? Measures? Elapsed clock time?

#3 doug


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Posted 14 August 2001 - 10:28 PM

There is very little case law on this subject, as far as I know. In 1996 I wrote my law school paper on the copyright validity of Balanchine's derivative ballets, i.e., the Petipa and Ivanov (etc.) ballets that he staged during his career over which the Balanchine Trust now asserts copyright. The only case at the time was the Trust's case re use of photos of Balanchine's NUTCRACKER in a book about the ballet. Because there is little case law, the standards have not been set with any clarity, although the Balanchine Trust case suggests ways in which standards could be set. I found this opinion to be pretty convincing and fair, with the court appearing to respect the delicacies of preserving choreography and acknowledging the difficulties of asserting choreographic copyright, even in theoretical form.

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