Can Dance Choreographers Seek Copyright Protection on Dance Moves?

Claiming copyright to an original dance move is an old issue but has recently been revived by Tik Tok contributors who were not recognized as originators. Actually, there’s a long list of men and women, usually people of color, whose dance steps in their choreography work were used without permission. This issue dates way back in the 1600s up to the early 20th century, the period when jazz steps became a popular style of dance movement.

Tik Tok Dance Originators Band Together to Protest Stolen Dance Steps

Tik Tok, the social media platforms where users upload video clips as medium for sharing new music discoveries, has become the new arena in the fight for recognition as originator of certain dance steps, Used as choreography in presenting an original music composition or a new music discovery, many black creators were disparaged by other popular Tik Tok users who did not give them credit as creators of the original dance step/s.

To signify their displeasure, several Black Tik Tok users banded together to launch a boycott movement. Since June 2021, the group refused to publish contents of their new dance steps to draw attention to their complaint.

Can Dance Creators Apply for a Copyright Patent on Original Dance Steps?

While Tik Tok is aware of the complaint put forward by dance creators whose dance steps have been pilfered by other users for their own advantage, Tik Tok can only bring down content that clearly violates copyright laws.

Nonetheless, Tik Tok’s advice as recourse, in addition to filing a Copyright Infringement Complaint is to directly confront the user for not giving them credit.

Dance Copyright Laws in the U.S.

Historically, the first U.S. Copyright Laws were established to protect only writers of literary works. It was only in 1976 that amendments were passed to update the copyright laws by including choreographic works.

The amendment established guidelines that must be considered before a copyright protection is granted for a dance choreography, naming 3 factors as important considerations: originality, idea in terms of expression as opposed to functionality and fixation. Fixation here, denotes that dance work can be sufficiently reproduced, communicated or perceived in a more or less permanent nature.

Apparently, many dance choreographers are not aware that they can apply for a copyright patent to protect their rights over an original dance step or movement.

An example of a dance choreographer who benefited from the copyright patents is founding artistic director of New York City Ballet, George Balanchine. Prior to his death in 1978, he was able to draw a will bequeathing the copyright licenses of the many ballet steps he created, to his next of kin. The patents entitled Balanchine’s heirs to the licensing income generated by the patents.