Saturday, December 9, 2023

Kick It! Marital Arts, Choreography, and Copyright

Dear Rich: I am writing a martial arts mobile phone app. The app includes text describing the martial arts movements and choreography illustrating the moves. The martial arts forms have been relatively unchanged since the 1970’s. From what I can tell, the movements have been treated like they are in the public domain, without copyright or trademark notices. Is this accurate?
The various martial arts schools use combinations of choreographic moves called "forms" or "kata" that date back centuries. So, most of what you want to use is in the public domain due to old age, and you can perform or duplicate the moves and describe them in your own language. Alternatively, you can use language from a publication that is in the public domain. You're free to use any text or imagery published before 1928. And you are likely free to use text published before 1964 (probably in the public domain). 
Limited ways to express yourself. If there are limited ways to describe a martial arts movement, you have more freedom to use similar language (known as the "merger doctrine"). For example, if there are limited ways of describing a double-leg takedown (defined as a "takedown where you grab the opponent’s legs while pushing their upper body forward, forcing them to fall back.") you would likely be excused for using the same language in your app.
Here are some things to avoid:
  • Using text or imagery taken from works published since 1964,
  • Taking imagery from a website unless the website provides a Creative Commons license or has dedicated the image to the public domain,
  • Using clips from martial arts videos without permission or
  • Using the name of any martial arts fighter, martial arts program, or martial arts studio if it implies endorsement or association.
New martial arts schools may claim copyright and trademark rights. For example, American Kenpo, founded by Ed Parker in the 1950s, owns multiple trademarks and copyrighted instructional manuals, books, and audio and visual digital content. Also, remember that although a martial arts studio may claim copyright or trademark rights over public domain titles and movements, that does not always make it so

No comments: