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

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805.1 What Is a Choreographic Work?


805.1 What Is a Choreographic Work?


The Copyright Act recognizes choreography as a distinct category of copyrightable authorship. 17 U.S.C. § 102 (A) (4). The statute does not define the term “choreographic works.” However, the legislative history states that this term has a “fairly settled meaning[].” H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 53 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5666-67; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 52 (1975).


The word “choreography” is derived from the Greek words “choreia,” meaning “dance,” and “graphikos,” meaning “to write.” A dance is the “static and kinetic succession[] of bodily movement in certain rhythmic and spatial relationships.” Horgan v. Macmillan,


Inc., 789 F.2d 157, 161 (2d Cir. 1986) (quoting COMPENDIUM (SECOND) § 450.01). The Office defines choreography as the composition and arrangement of “a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into a coherent whole.” Id. (quoting COMPENDIUM (SECOND) § 450.03 (A)).


By definition, choreography is a subset of dance. As such, a work of authorship cannot be registered as a choreographic work unless it is comprised of dance steps, dance movements, and/or dance patterns. However, the term choreography is not synonymous with dance. The legislative history for the 1976 Copyright Act clearly states that “‘choreographic works’ do not include social dance steps and simple routines.” H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 54 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5667; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 52 (1975). For a detailed discussion of the distinction between choreography on the one hand, and social dances and simple routines on the other, see Sections 805.4 and 805.5 below.


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