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

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805.4 (B) Choreographic Authorship

805.4 (B) Choreographic Authorship

“As a fundamental premise, copyright presupposes an original intellectual creation of authorship.” COPYRIGHT OFFICE STUDY NO. 28, at 100. In the case of a choreographic work, original authorship requires the composition and arrangement of “a related series of dance movements and patterns” organized into an integrated, coherent, and expressive whole. Horgan, 789 F.2d at 161 (quoting COMPENDIUM (SECOND) § 450.03 (A)); see also Registration of Claims to Copyright, 77 Fed. Reg. 37,605, 37,607 (June 22, 2012).

The U.S. Copyright Office may register a choreographic work, provided that the dance contains a sufficient amount of choreographic authorship that was created by the choreographer. The registration specialist will use objective criteria to determine whether a choreographic work satisfies these requirements by reviewing the information provided in the application and by examining the deposit copy(ies), including the individual elements of the work as well as the dance as a whole. The specific criteria that the specialist will consider are set forth in Section 805.2 above. The specialist will not consider subjective criteria that have no bearing on whether the originality requirement has been met, such as the author’s intent, the aesthetic value, artistic merit, or intrinsic quality of the dance, or the symbolic meaning or commercial impression of the dance.

Examples of dances and bodily movements that do not satisfy the originality requirement are discussed in Section 805.5 (A) below.

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