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

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805.6 Derivative Choreographic Works

805.6 Derivative Choreographic Works

A derivative choreographic work is a work that is based on or derived from one or more preexisting works, regardless of whether the preexisting work is a choreographic work, a pantomime, or any other type of work listed in Section 102 (A) of the Copyright Act.

Typically, derivative choreography is a new version of a preexisting choreographic work or an entirely new work that combines preexisting choreography with a substantial amount of new material. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “derivative work”).


• Adding a new section to Petipa’s Don Quixote.

• A modern dance version of the ballet The Nutcracker.

The new authorship that the choreographer contributed to the derivative work may be registered, provided that it contains a sufficient amount of original choreographic authorship. Specifically, the new material that the choreographer contributed to the work must be independently created and it must contain a sufficient amount of creativity. Simply making minor changes or trivial additions to a preexisting choreographic work does not satisfy this requirement. Moreover, simply adding movements to a social dance will not alter the nature of the work as an uncopyrightable social dance.

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