805.8 (D) Descriptions, Depictions, and Illustrations of Social Dances, Simple Routines, or Other Uncopyrightable Movements
Although the copyright law does not protect social dances, simple routines, ordinary physical movements, or the like, the U.S. Copyright Office may register photographs, drawings, sculptures, or other works of visual art that illustrate a series of uncopyrightable movements. For example, a written description of a social dance may be registered as a literary work and a video recording of a simple routine may be registrable as a motion picture. See Registration of Claims to Copyright, 77 Fed. Reg. at 37,607.
The scope of protection for such works does not extend to the movements themselves, either individually or in combination with each other. Instead, the claim is limited to the expressive description, depiction, or illustration of the movements, to the extent that they constitute a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, a literary work, or an audiovisual work. For instance, making an unauthorized reproduction of a video recording that depicts an athletic competition may infringe the audiovisual expression in that recording. Likewise, making an unauthorized reproduction of a textbook that describes the steps for performing a social dance or simple routine may infringe the textual expression in that book. However, publicly performing a social dance, a simple routine, or an athletic competition that is depicted in a video recording or a book would not be an infringement. See COPYRIGHT OFFICE STUDY NO. 28, at 100 n.45 (“A narrative or graphic description of a social dance, as in a book designed to teach the dance, might be copyrighted; but the copyright, while affording protection against the reproduction of the description in its narrative or graphic form, would not extend to the execution of the dance.”).