Let's dance and infringe

CNet reports that the creator of the 'Electric Slide' dance, Richard Silver, has been going around accusing people of infringing his copyright by posting videos on YouTube (watch the dance here, that is if it's still there by the time you read this). Although Mr Silver says he created his dance in 1976, he didn't register it in the US until 2004, and is now using the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to enforce his rights against YouTube, forcing them to start removing material posted there (read one affected user's comments here).

Right: How to do the electric slide (is this infringing?)

On first reading this story, the IPKat was at first incredulous, then a bit puzzled, then a dawning realisation came upon him that Mr Silver may actually have a case. The IPKat is not familiar with the particular details of US copyright law (perhaps some friendly US lawyer type can help by submitting a comment below) but in the UK, according to section 3 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, copyright can subsist in a "dramatic work", which includes a work of dance or mime. Performing the work, at least in public, could therefore be an infringing act. The problem of subsistence in this case, should it ever be properly argued, may come down to whether the dance choreography was recorded in some form, perhaps in the standard Benesh notation, and whether the accused infringers were performing this particular work.

More electric slides here, here and here.
Let's dance and infringe Let's dance and infringe Reviewed by David Pearce on Sunday, February 04, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. The IPKat's friend Richard informs him that s106 of the US Copyright Act specifically mentions choreographic works. Article 2 of the Berne convention does too. As far as he is concerned there is no surprise here.

  2. But the meaning of "choreographic works" is far from intuitive. The US caselaw to date has provided protection only for recorded choreography, using choreographic notation. The maybe-hopefully-just-resolved Martha Graham dispute(s) over ownership are an excellent example (and an excellent example of the nonsense involved in works made for hire).

    However, the biggest problem that I have is that the Electric Slide is a technique more akin to the "short phrases" that are explicitly outside the US Copyright Act's protection. If one were copying the complete dance, that would be one thing; inserting the Electric Slide into another work, though, sounds more like the kind of fact pattern that a thoroughly evil law professor might put into an exam question...


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