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

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805.8 (C) Capacity for Uniform Performance

805.8 (C) Capacity for Uniform Performance

As discussed in Section 805.3 (D) (3), a choreographic work may be embodied with a textual description, photographs, drawings, or any combination of the foregoing, provided that the deposit copy(ies) identify the precise movements of the dancers and is sufficiently detailed to serve as directions for the performance of the dance.

If the deposit copy(ies) is not sufficiently specific or if it is so general and lacking in detail that the dance could not be performed therefrom, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant or may refuse to register the dance as a choreographic work. In some cases, it may be possible to register a textual description as a literary work if the application asserts a claim in “text” and it may be possible to register a photograph or drawing as a work of the visual arts if the applicant asserts a claim in “artwork.” In both cases, the registration would extend to the description, depiction, or illustration of the movements, but the movements themselves would not be registered as a choreographic work. See Registration of Claims to Copyright, 77 Fed. Reg. at 37,607.


• The U.S. Copyright Office receives an application to register an abstract modern dance, along with a textual description for foot movements. No notations or instructions are provided for torso, head, or arm movements. The registration specialist may refuse registration on the grounds that the work is not sufficiently fixed to allow a dancer to perform the work. In the alternative, the specialist may communicate with the applicant and explain that the deposit copy does not support a claim to copyright in a choreographic work. The specialist may invite the applicant to submit dance notation, a motion picture, or an additional textual description of the work. If the applicant fails to provide additional deposit material, the specialist may refuse to register the dance as a choreographic work.

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