5 Challenges Choreographers Face When Protecting Their Dance
Copyright law in Australia protects a range of art forms, including choreography. This protection protects original works, giving the creator – in this case, the choreographer – exclusive rights to reproduce and commercialise their work.
Like all forms of intellectual property (IP), you as a choreographer need to consider a number of things when protecting your work, such as how you can protect your dances from being copied. This article will take you through five challenges you may face when protecting your choreography.
1. Proving Originality
Proving the originality of your choreography can be challenging. Simple dance moves themselves will not be considered original, and neither will an idea or an overall choreography style. For example, you will not be able to protect simple waltz or tango steps. Instead, it is the choreography as a whole and the expression of your idea that copyright will protect. With so many dance routines already existing, proving that your choreography is unique and original might be difficult.
2. Putting It Into Material Form
To prove the originality of your choreography, you will need to put it into material form. This means that you must document your choreography in some way to prove that it is yours. This can be done either in writing (e.g. through dance notation) or recorded on video. Not only will the choreography itself be protected, but copyright will also protect the dance notation or video. There is no need to register your choreography in Australia – having your choreography in material form is enough to give you copyright protection.
3. Knowing What ‘Copying’ Your Dance Means
Because your choreography must be original to be protected, it can be difficult to determine what ‘copying’ your choreography consists of. Somebody does not have to copy your entire choreography to infringe on your copyright. Only a substantial part of the dance or a distinct series of movements need to be copied for your choreography to be considered ‘stolen’. It is unlikely that using individual moves or simple steps will be considered as infringing on your copyright.
4. Knowing What To Do When Someone Copies Your Dance
When someone infringes on your choreography, as the owner of the choreography, it is important to know the exclusive rights you have. Without knowing your IP rights, it can be difficult to enforce them.
For example, if someone uses your choreography without your permission, you can ask them to stop using your choreography. If they continue to use your choreography without your consent, you can get a court order to stop them and seek compensation for your loss or their gain.
5. Knowing Who Owns Your Dance
The choreographer is usually the one who has rights over their original choreography. However, if you are a choreographer and an employee of a dance studio, your employer may be the one with rights to your choreography. It is important to consider this when signing your employment contract with a dance studio. Dancers also need to be careful about using choreography they have learnt at other dance studios to minimise the risk of infringing on someone else’s rights.
If you are a choreographer wanting to protect your original work, it is important that you:
- can prove the originality of your work;
- put your choreography into material form;
- know what ‘copying’ your choreography consists of;
- know your IP rights; and
- know who owns your choreography.
As an artist, your IP is the most important aspect of your work. If you need further legal assistance with protecting your choreography, our experienced intellectual property lawyers can assist. Call us on 1300 657 423 or complete the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Copyright refers to the rights you have as the owner of IP. Only you and anyone you grant permission to can use your work. In Australia, copyright is automatic, meaning you do not have to register your work to gain these rights.
As the owner of your original choreography, you have automatic rights over your choreography that help you protect your work. These rights allow you to stop others from using your choreography and give you the exclusive rights to commercialise and profit from your work.
As the choreographer, you likely own the rights to your original work. However, if you are a choreographer working for a dance studio, your employer may have rights over any work you produce as an employee. You should check your employment contract to see who owns your original choreography.
To prove that your choreography is your own, you will need to put it into material form, either in writing or by taking a video recording. Your choreography will need to be original for it to be your own – simple steps or basic movement sequences will not be considered original.