Yoga, exercise or dance?


A discussion on how U.S. copyright law protects ‘choreographic works’

This article first appeared in Intellectual Property Magazine in their March edition.

Fish’s Kristen McCallion wrote this article for Intellectual Property Magazine which provides insight on how U.S. copyright law protects ‘choreographic works.’

US copyright law protects "original works of authorship" that are "fixed in a tangible medium of expression". Section 102(a) of the US Copyright Act sets forth eight specific categories of works that are protected by copyright, "pantomimes and choreographic works" being one of them. The US Copyright Office explains on its website that "choreography is the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns usually intended to be accompanied by music". Congress has stated that copyrightable choreography does not include "social dance steps and simple routines".

Nearly forty years ago, US legislators explained that the categories of copyrightable works set forth in the Copyright Act "do not necessarily exhaust the scope of 'original works of authorship'… Rather, the list sets out the general area of copyrightable subject matter, but with sufficient flexibility to free the courts from rigid or outmoded concepts of the scope of particular categories. But while there may have been an intention to allow for flexibility in determinations of whether a particular work is subject to copyright protection, neither the US Copyright Office nor the courts have the power to create brand new categories of copyrightable works such that the so-called "flexibility granted to the courts is limited to the scope of the categories designated by Congress in section 102(a)".

Learn more about why choreographic copyright registrants should beware and how Bikram feels the heat by reading “Yoga, exercise or dance?