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Can movements be copyrighted?

Technology industries are often at the heart of intellectual property disputes. After all, it is an industry where innovation and creativity are vital to just about every company’s success.

However, artistic enterprises also thrive or fail on those same components. And in a time when things like social media influencers and viral videos can become massively popular, artistic expression in movement and music is proving to be as valuable as algorithms and software.

Copyrights and choreography

For example, take copyright cases involving choreographed dances. There have been multiple claims where parties claim ownership of a dance or infringement on protected work. 

Choreography undoubtedly falls under the category of what copyright can protect. It is a form of artistic expression, and a copyright can give the choreographer exclusive legal rights to use and perform the work. 

That said, not every dance, gesture or movement meets the standard for choreographic work. Broadly speaking, work should be:

  • A defined sequence of rhythmic movements 
  • Accompanied by music or text
  • Presented before an audience in a spacial environment
  • Conveying a story or theme
  • Performed by skilled artists

Thus, simple, short movements like an endzone dance or individual ballet position generally would not be eligible for copyright protection. Choreographed pieces, on the other hand, can be.

Toeing the line

The line between a fragment and a piece of art can present challenges for any party seeking copyrights for their work. Companies can find that short words or commonplace phrases often are not eligible for copyright. The same can be said for single music notes, simple drawings or intangible ideas.

Elements like choreography, sounds and statements can play a role in many industries, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. And if you want to attract a specific audience to your business, utilizing creative works that the audience is likely to respond to can be crucial.

However, to avoid intellectual property disputes stemming from copyright infringement, parties should be sure they are not misusing protected materials. Registering a copyright for work you create can also make it easier to prove ownership, if necessary.


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