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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9502/copyrighting-dance-stepsthe-death-of-choreography/

Copyrighting Dance Steps–The Death of Choreography

February 24, 2009 by

Note from a reader (see also my post Copyrights and Dancing):

Dear Mr. Kinsella,

I have yet to read your book or the Boldrin and Levine book, but just reading your blog posts [e.g. There are No Good Arguments for Intellectual Property; What's Wrong with Theft?] and the discussions they generate has convinced me of your position. It seems to me that the only question worth considering is Are ideas property? If an IP proponent could give a good answer to this question, we could have a good debate. But the replies to your argument seem desperate and incoherent.

I’m an amateur choreographer so I know that IP is not necessary for creation. Dancers take movement where ever we can find it. The first person to get a copyright on walking would own the dance community and the world, in fact. The first routine I put together used movement from several other performers. If IP were to apply to dance, all dance communities would die the next day.

The dance community is experiencing the wrath of IP regarding music, however. We have had problems with the music that we use. Promoters who videotape our performances are reluctant to sell the DVDs because the artists might sue the promoters if their music is used. YouTube is censoring videos in which it can recognize the music in the background. I find this ridiculous. If I have already paid my $0.99 for your song and created a visual expression of the music, from whence do you get the right to now “own” my expression of your song?

I think that my dance experience instilled in me a skepticism about IP, but still I find your intellectual arguments indisputable.

Yours,

[C.E.]

{ 13 comments }

Ted February 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm

All hail Kinsella’s indisputable arguments!

Crowd: HAIL!!!

Benjamin Burkley February 24, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Just from my personal experience, all of the music that I like, all of the bands that I pay to go see, all of the art, dance, classical that I enjoy and support, I have been introduced to for free by so called pirated music and images. If I did not receive this initial infusion on culture I would not support any of these bands or artists. Period. Because I would not know about them, and I would not be willing to spend my money on something that do know know if i would like. All in all, most of the things that I love and support are not copyrighted, and are public domain. ( at least they are all aviliable for free on the internet)

Dick Fox February 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm

C.E wrote:

If I have already paid my $0.99 for your song and created a visual expression of the music, from whence do you get the right to now “own” my expression of your song?

One of the most powerful arguments I have read on why protection of IP is foolish.

Jack Skylark February 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm

C.E.,

You have never paid $0.99 for full ownership over a song. In fact, upon purchase or sometime prior (think music subscription) you agreed to conditional ownership of that song. In this way, and using the current definition of IP, you do not “own” any of the songs you currently listen to.

Marc Sheffner February 24, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Is this complaint covered by Lawrence Lessig’s suggestions of “free culture”? The “chill” effect on artistic creation is certainly scary (BTW, the short story Melancholy Elephants explains the issues vividly.)
But I disagree that “the only question worth considering is Are ideas property?” Surely, several other ideas are equally important: a) Is a dance (or a piece of music) nothing more than an idea (especially once it has been given form)? b) How can I most effectively protect my property (i.e. my artistic product) from theft, and claim authorship?

ella February 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm

“#

All hail Kinsella’s indisputable arguments!

Crowd: HAIL!!!”

Sounds like a Hitler/Obama-ian crowd.

Bruce Koerber February 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Who can claim that of the billions of people on the planet – most who cannot communicate their thoughts with the others because of language barriers – you are the only or the first to pull from the invisible realm ‘your’ thought?

To that person the phrase ‘vain imagining’ can be assigned.

Protecting your vain imagining is interventionism which is a small act of totalitarianism. If you were to gain power would you be just as unethical and because of the greater scale of your actions become a tyrant?

Of course we are not talking about intentionally fraudulent acts which are crimes, pure and simple.

Ray Birks February 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm

In the upcoming issue (Summer 2009) of the magazine I publish (The Sondheim Review), we just happen to be including a short paragraph concerning copyright law and dance. I offer it for informational purposes only.

The not-yet-final version reads:

In 1960, [choreographer] Bob Fosse brought a show to the National [Theatre in Washington, D.C.] that was to affect the future of all choreography — not because of its impact on the art form but because of its impact on copyright law. The show was about a World War II Marine reject who, despite being discharged for hay fever, wants to return home as The Conquering Hero. Its tryout at the National was so poorly received that Fosse was fired. Two of his ballets were retained, but without credit. Fosse took the case to arbitration and won, a judgment measured in cents rather than dollars as Fosse was more interested in principle than in principal. The case, R. Fosse vs Producers Theatre, Inc., drew attention to the glitch in copyright law that had allowed music, lyrics and books of musicals to be protected but not choreography. That law was changed to make choreography a protectable property.

The case, which was an “award” by the American Arbitration Association rather than a full-out court-decided suit, is not a published document in a public record. The American Arbitration Association tells [us] that they maintain no archive which could be referenced. However, documents on the matter are in the Library of Congress’ Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon Collection.

Ray Birks February 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm

In the upcoming issue (Summer 2009) of the magazine I publish (The Sondheim Review), we just happen to be including a short paragraph concerning copyright law and dance. I offer it for informational purposes only.

The not-yet-final version reads:

In 1960, [choreographer] Bob Fosse brought a show to the National [Theatre in Washington, D.C.] that was to affect the future of all choreography — not because of its impact on the art form but because of its impact on copyright law. The show was about a World War II Marine reject who, despite being discharged for hay fever, wants to return home as The Conquering Hero. Its tryout at the National was so poorly received that Fosse was fired. Two of his ballets were retained, but without credit. Fosse took the case to arbitration and won, a judgment measured in cents rather than dollars as Fosse was more interested in principle than in principal. The case, R. Fosse vs Producers Theatre, Inc., drew attention to the glitch in copyright law that had allowed music, lyrics and books of musicals to be protected but not choreography. That law was changed to make choreography a protectable property.

The case, which was an “award” by the American Arbitration Association rather than a full-out court-decided suit, is not a published document in a public record. The American Arbitration Association tells [us] that they maintain no archive which could be referenced. However, documents on the matter are in the Library of Congress’ Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon Collection.

Ray Birks February 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm

In the upcoming issue (Summer 2009) of the magazine I publish (The Sondheim Review), we just happen to be including a short paragraph concerning copyright law and dance. I offer it for informational purposes only.

The not-yet-final version reads:

In 1960, [choreographer] Bob Fosse brought a show to the National [Theatre in Washington, D.C.] that was to affect the future of all choreography — not because of its impact on the art form but because of its impact on copyright law. The show was about a World War II Marine reject who, despite being discharged for hay fever, wants to return home as The Conquering Hero. Its tryout at the National was so poorly received that Fosse was fired. Two of his ballets were retained, but without credit. Fosse took the case to arbitration and won, a judgment measured in cents rather than dollars as Fosse was more interested in principle than in principal. The case, R. Fosse vs Producers Theatre, Inc., drew attention to the glitch in copyright law that had allowed music, lyrics and books of musicals to be protected but not choreography. That law was changed to make choreography a protectable property.

The case, which was an “award” by the American Arbitration Association rather than a full-out court-decided suit, is not a published document in a public record. The American Arbitration Association tells [us] that they maintain no archive which could be referenced. However, documents on the matter are in the Library of Congress’ Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon Collection.

Caveman February 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm

A blog on dance steps and IP and no comment from Silas?!

Artisan February 25, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I may not know enough about dancing but, can it be that dance “steps” are not as easily defined and therefore associated with their creator as to assume plagiarism in most cases?

I’ve heard there’s two main systems of writing down choreography, but I wonder if they are very much practiced…

Ray Birks February 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Apologies for the triple post above. Perhaps an admin can delete two. TIA.

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