Thursday, March 27, 2014

Infringement of Choreography Copyright?

Dear Rich: I choreographed a show for a producer NOT for hire. Now she is changing my choreography over my objections. Does she have this right? We have done the show 12 years but now she wants changes which, in my opinion, are aesthetically and structurally wrong. I am now waiting for my copyright to be approved by the Library of Congress -- included a DVD of the show. She also hired someone else to 'set' the work without a fee to me. Assuming (1) you are the sole "author" of the choreography, and (2) it meets copyright standards, you would be the copyright owner and would have the right to prevent others from making changes (creating derivative works). Your current arrangement? If there was any paperwork twelve years ago, now's the time to check it. We assume you have granted either an explicit or implied license to use your choreography. If a new version is being created, it's likely you will need to negotiate a new license.
Co-authors. If someone else made material contributions -- coauthored the choreography -- then that coauthor could modify the work without your permission as long as you are paid for a proportional share of the revenue. By the way, the protection for choreography copyright extends beyond the performance on stage; it includes other media -- for example, a series of still photos of the dance pattern. There is very little precedent for choreography copyrights and if you are considering pursuing the producer, we'd suggest you consult with an attorney.