Copyright Compendium

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801.2 What Is a Work of the Performing Arts?

 

801.2 What Is a Work of the Performing Arts?

 

The Office uses the term “work of the performing arts” to collectively refer to the following works of authorship:

 

• Musical Works, including any accompanying words.

 

• Sound Recordings.

 

• Dramatic Works, including any accompanying music.

 

• Choreographic works.

 

• Pantomimes.

 

• Audiovisual Works.

 

• Motion Pictures.

 

See 17 U.S.C. § 102 (A). The Copyright Act does not define the term “work of the performing arts,” nor does it provide definitions for the majority of the works listed above (i.e., musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, and pantomimes). When Congress revised what is now the Copyright Act of 1976, it determined that definitions for musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, and pantomimes were unnecessary because these terms “have fairly settled meanings.” H.R. REP. NO. 94- 1476, at 53 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5666-67; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 52 (1975). As a general matter, a work that was created to be performed before an audience, directly or indirectly, is a work of the performing arts. 37 C.F.R. § 202.3 (B) (1)(ii).

 

Descriptions of each of these types of works and issues relating to the registration of such works are set forth in Sections 802 through 808.

 

The Office classifies the following types of works as works of the performing arts, but they also may be classified as literary works:

 

• Interviews intended to be performed before an audience (e.g., television interviews, radio interviews, onstage interviews, etc.).

 

• Lectures and sermons.

 

• Videogames.

 

Screen displays for videogames may be registered as visual art works, as well as works of the performing arts.

 

For more information on literary works, see Chapter 700. For more information on visual art works, see Chapter 900.