Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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804.7 (D) Stage Directions

804.7 (D) Stage Directions

The Office regularly receives applications that claim copyright in the directions for the performance of a dramatic work, separate from the dialog or other elements of that dramatic work. In most cases, the applicant is attempting to register directions for performance on a stage.

Generally, stage directions are not independently copyrightable, although they may constitute an aspect of the overall dramatic work. Because stage directions are completely dependent on a particular dramatic work, a claim in stage directions must be authorized by the author of the dramatic work.

The Office has long held that copyright protection in stage directions is limited to the text of the directions themselves. When removed from the context of the dramatic work, the directions do not, in and of themselves, constitute dramatic content or give rise to a claim in the simple movements that are dictated by that text.

For guidance in completing an application to register the stage directions for a dramatic work, see Section 804.9 (D) (3).

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