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

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806.2 (D) Dramatic Content

806.2 (D) Dramatic Content

A pantomime may present a story or theme or it may be an abstract composition. Pantomimes often tell a story, develop characters or themes, and convey dramatic concepts or ideas through a sequence of gestures and bodily movements. They may be performed either with or without makeup, masks, costumes, scenery, or props.

A pantomime first published prior to January 1, 1978 cannot be registered unless the work tells a story, develops a character, or expresses a theme or emotion by means of specific movements and physical actions. Cf. U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE, COPYRIGHT OFFICE STUDY NO. 28, at 95 (1961). Pantomime was not mentioned in the 1909 Act, and as a result, this type of work could only be registered if it qualified as a “dramatic work.” See Daly v. Palmer, 6 Fed. Cas. 1132, 1136 (C.C.S.D.N.Y. 1868) (No. 3,552) (holding that written directions for movements and gestures conveying an original story sequence may be protectable as a dramatic composition).

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