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Freedom to perform & Copyright

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#1 ronny


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 06:23 AM

Does a Ballet Company have the freedom to perform anything they want, or do they have to be concerned about Copyright law?
I assume that choreography cannot be covered by copyright, but what about a new prodution that has a new musical score? Just what does a ballet company have to consider with regard to copyright law. Do they need to be concerned about ANYTHING?

And maybe in the same context... Are there unspoken taboos about copying something that another company does? Are there any traditional kind of rules that apply to one ballet company copying the performance of another.

This last part of the question is a puzzle to me since I would think it is not so good to copy, but in the case of wanting to copy something that was done a hundred years ago... to some that may be considered admirable! So what do you think about this issue of doing something that another company has already done? What are your feelings on it?

#2 Estelle


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 06:29 AM

ronny, I'm not very knowledgeable about that topic, but one thing I know is that there are indeed copyrights for choreography, and that a ballet company has to be concerned about the copyrights for the choreography, the musical score, and probably also the costumes/sets...
Older works are in the public domain (for example Petipa's choreographies), so I think "copying" is not a problem in that case, but for more recent ballets it would definitely be a problem.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 July 2002 - 07:43 AM

Ronny -

Copyright for choreography is basically equivalent to copyright for written material, although method of recording and proof of authorship is necessarily different. But like the written word, it is considered intellectual property. As Estelle says, there are many legal rights a ballet company must be concerned about, unless it chooses to work with chorography and music, et al in the public domain.

Here's one very in-depth article on the subject: http://www.csulb.edu...p/copyrigh.html

#4 Alexandra


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 07:49 AM

This is one of the reasons why there are so many (awful) versions of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, et al. They're "free" -- in the public domain. And anyone can take the music and do anything they want with it. And so they do :D

#5 ronny


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 11:14 AM

OK, thanks. The answers surprise me a bit, especially copyrighted choreography! Sounds like a very messy area since the choreography in so many ballets look so similar to me (but that is just probably due to my inexperience) Also these things you mention here may explain why more recent works (there must be a few really good ones out there) don't get repeated all over the world. Almost sounds like the system doesn't allow great things to live on without paying a fee. I know the creative types need the royalty, but too bad it can't be done some other way.

How far back do you have to go for public domain? For example what about the music of Prokofiev.... is that still protected by copyright?

#6 Farrell Fan

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Posted 30 July 2002 - 01:21 PM

The New York City Ballet program routinely states, "The choreographies presented on this program are copyrighted by the individual choreographers." I don't know how long it takes for music to fall into the public domain, but with respect to Prokofiev, the most recent ballet I saw to his music, Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer, carried the program note: "Music used by arrangement with G. Schirmer, Inc., Western Hemisphere agent for VAAP." An interesting example is provided by Vienna Waltzes. The music for the first four parts of the ballet, composed in 1868, 1885, and 1848 by Johan Strauss II and in 1905 by Franz Lehar, carries no copyright notices. The final section, composed in 1946 by Richard Strauss, says, "By arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright owner."

Ronny, I realize the foregoing may sound unreasonable vs. what you call "the freedom to perform." But as a longtime member of the Authors Guild, I am a big fan of copyrights. If not for them, the "creative types" would get screwed by the business types every day of the week.

#7 dirac


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 01:55 PM

Below is a link to a FAQ section on the Library of Congress' U.S. Copywright Office website. Some of the information may be more arcane or detailed than you need, but there is a good outline of the basics. Copyright law, as I understand it, is intended to balance the interests of the creator with what Ronny calls "the freedom to perform." (I happen to think the lifetime plus-rules now in effect are more than sufficient.):


and a very useful guide to copyright issues and the Internet:


#8 Estelle


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 03:01 PM

It's interesting to note that in the FAQ it is written that among the works which are not protected by copyright, there are:
"choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded".
I wonder if it ever lead to some abuse...

If I remember correctly, the copyright system in France also has a duration of 70 years after the death of the author of the work, but there are some special cases, for example the years of war don't count (so for example for someone who died in 1942 the count would start in 1945 only) and there might be a longer duration for the people who "died for France" (as soldiers, or in deportation). But for example, as far as a know, Ravel's "Bolero" still isn't in the public domain, and the copyright holders (some relatives of the nurse who took care of Ravel at the end of his life) earn huge sums thanks to it every year. It even caused some problems to choreographers interested in choreographing it, because the copyright holders asked for so much money that there would be about nothing for the choreographic copyrights...

A difference between the US and the French law, as far as I know, is that in France there are two sorts of rights ("droits d'auteur"): the usual copyright ("droits patrimoniaux"), dealing with financial matters, and also the "moral right" (droit moral) which has no limitation in time, can't be sold or given while the author is alive, might be donated to someone else than the usual copyright, and deals with the integrity of the work, and some other rights (for example, for a painting or sculpture, the right to refuse its reproduction on postcards). A recent example when it was the will of the late writer Marguerite Duras: she gave the copyright to her son, and the "moral right" to her lover Yann Andrea. And some time after, Yann Andrea protested against some plans of Duras's son to include some of her texts in a book he disapproved as not representative of her works (I don't remember the details) and won.

#9 ronny


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 05:28 PM

Holy Smokes!! Very professional answers.. thanks..."who could ask for anything more"

OOps, I better check copyright on that quote!

#10 Giannina


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Posted 30 July 2002 - 06:06 PM



#11 checkwriter



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Posted 31 July 2002 - 09:20 PM

Copyright law essentially protects original expressions of ideas that have been recorded in some fashion. Thus literary works, musical scores, films, and records are protected by copyright.

Choreography that has been recorded is protected by copyright law. This can be by way of notation or a video recording of the work.

Copyrights expire, and the copyrighted work then passes into the public domain.

One can perform a work that is not protected by copyright (say a Shakespeare play), record that performance, and the recording of the performance will be protected by copyright because it represents the original expression of that play by the performers thereof. This means that others may not make copies of the recording without the permission of the owner of the copyright. It does not prevent others from staging their own Shakespeare play.

The owner of a copyright can control access to the work. This is what allows the Balanchine Trust, for example, (which controls many copyrights to various Balanchine works), to decide which companies get to perform which pieces. Conditions can be placed on the use of a copyrighted work; in the case of the Trust, it frequently conditions its permission to perform a Balanchine ballet on having an approved repetiteur (one who knows the dance) go on site to teach the dance to the company.

So, yes, a ballet company should pay close attention to copyrights, both for the music it uses and for the choreography it performs. Failure to do so does a disservice to the artists who created the works, and is illegal to boot.

#12 innopac


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Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:57 PM

[size=4]Copyright and Choreography: The Good, The Bad, and The Fair[/size]

[size=4]By Elizabeth F. Jackson[/size]

[size=4]From the Green Room: Dance/USA's e-Journal[/size]

[size=4]July 10, 2012[/size]


#13 Amy Reusch

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 06:24 AM

I wonder if any interesting choreography is on the verge of becoming public domain... Both of the first two links in this thread are no longer active...

Trying to figure what is eligible is confusing because the copyright date is not the premiere but rather the date it was recorded, I believe...

I found a nice cheat sheat on the web...

http://www.scribd.co...Domain#page=341 Page 327

The renewal is confusing and I wonder about copyrights held by a corporation such as the Balanchine Trust...

For instance, when will Balanchine's Apollo enter the public donain? How about Fokine's Les Sylphides?

#14 abatt


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Posted 13 July 2012 - 06:38 AM

I checked a handy pamphlet from the US Copyright office. It states in part

[font=TheMixExtraBold-Plain][size=3][font=TheMixExtraBold-Plain][size=3]What Is Not Protected by Copyright?[/size][/font][/size][/font]

[font=MinionC][size=2][font=MinionC][size=2]Several categories of material are generally not eligible for[/size][/font][/size][/font]

[font=MinionC][size=2][font=MinionC][size=2]federal copyright protection. These include among others:[/size][/font][/size][/font]

[font=MinionC][size=2][font=MinionC][size=2]• works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of[/size][/font][/size][/font]

[font=MinionC][size=2][font=MinionC][size=2]expression (for example, choreographic works that have[/size][/font][/size][/font]

[font=MinionC][size=2][font=MinionC][size=2]not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches[/size][/font][/size][/font]

[font=MinionC][size=2][font=MinionC][size=2]or performances that have not been written or recorded)[/size][/font][/size][/font]

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