How to Copyright Choreography

by Brenna Davis
The actual choreography of a dance can be copyrighted if it is fixed in tangible form.

The actual choreography of a dance can be copyrighted if it is fixed in tangible form.

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A copyright affords protection to creators and owners of unique intellectual property that is fixed in some permanent, tangible form such as a written notation, book, video, sound recording, or drawing. To be eligible for copyright protection, your choreography must be original. Under U.S. copyright law, as soon as an original work of authorship, such as choreography, has been created in fixed form, then copyright protection exists from that time. This gives the author or his agent to rightfully claim copyright. However, it is much better to register the copyright, because it creates a public notice that you own the rights and enables you to sue in federal court if someone uses your choreography without your permission. It is important to note that choreography that has not been made into a fixed form is not eligible for copyright protection.

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Step 1

Transfer your choreography to a tangible medium. Acceptable media for choreography are film or video recording, or by a precise written notation of the choreography in text or tape.You may use dance notation to describe the choreography. Note that copyrighting your choreography will not prohibit others from performing the dance under the fair use principle. Fair use allows for limited personal and educational use, so that people may perform your dance in their own homes and in other arenas covered by limited personal and educational use. However, if you copyright your choreography, others cannot sell the dance or claim it as their own creation.

Step 2

Display a copyright notice next to any published versions of the choreography. For example, if you put the written notation of the choreography online, put a copyright symbol, your name and the year copyrighted next to the notation. Although a copyright symbol is not required to protect your copyrights, it can deter copyright infringement. Further, copyright violators who can prove that infringement was unintentional may only be obligated to pay minimal damages. Displaying a copyright symbol and registering copyrights prevents others from infringing from claiming they did not know the item was copyrighted.

Step 3

Register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration through the electronic copyright office (eCO) is less expensive, but you may also print a paper form and mail the registration. To register through eCO, navigate to the electronic copyright office home page. Register for an eCO account by clicking "continue to eCO" and then "click here to register."

Step 4

Log in to eCO after you have completed your registration. Then click "register a new claim" and select the type of claim you wish to register. Normally, you should use form PA for performing arts. In some cases, you can use form TX for written choreography and form VA for recorded or drawn choreography. Complete the form and list all copyright holders. If the choreography is a derivative work, or someone else owns portions of the choreography, you must note this on the form.

Step 5

Upload a sample of the choreography. You may also elect to print shipping labels and mail a video, transcription or drawing of the choreography directly to the copyright office. Pay the filing fee to complete your registration. The U.S. Copyright Office will notify you when your copyright have been accepted and registered.