Do you know the copyright infringement in choreography? Let us look into the blog to explore the choreography copyright infringement cases.

The world of dance is a captivating blend of grace, rhythm, and artistic expression.

Choreographers weave stories through bodies in motion, leaving audiences in awe of their ability to communicate complex narratives and emotions without uttering a single word.

But beyond the mesmerising pirouettes and powerful leaps, a legal ballet is being danced out, one where choreographers are increasingly seeking protection for their creative works in the form of copyright.

Choreography and copyright are two domains that, at first glance, might seem worlds apart.

However, the reality is that they’ve become intricately linked in the ever-evolving world of intellectual property law.

Choreography copyright infringement cases have been mounting, reflecting the growing awareness among choreographers of their legal rights and the increasing value placed on original choreographic works.

In this blog, we’ll leap into the world of choreography copyright infringement, exploring landmark ‘Choreography Copyright Infringement Cases’ that have shaped the interpretation and application of copyright law to dance.

Whether you’re a choreographer, dancer, legal enthusiast, or simply intrigued by the intersection of art and law, join us as we traverse this compelling legal landscape.

We’ll examine the legal protections for choreography, demystify the concept of copyright infringement, and uncover the implications of these legal proceedings on the dance community and the world of intellectual property.

Blog Middle Component Image

Protect Your Brand & Recover Revenue With Bytescare Brand Protection

What is Choreography Copyright Infringement?

Choreography copyright infringement is a specific subset of copyright infringement that relates to the unauthorised use of choreographic work.

Like other forms of copyright infringement, it’s based on the principle that the creator of an original work has the exclusive right to use, perform, reproduce, and distribute that work.

Here’s a breakdown:

Choreographic Work: In legal terms, a choreographic work is a related series of dance movements and patterns organised in a coherent, complete, and unique way.

This might be the choreography for an entire ballet, a sequence of steps for a hip hop routine, or a specific dance for a music video.

Copyright Protection: Choreographic works are protected by copyright law as soon as they are fixed in a tangible medium.

This means that as soon as a choreographer records their dance—whether that’s through video, notation, or some other method—they automatically have copyright protection for that work.

They have the exclusive right to perform, reproduce, and distribute their choreography.

Infringement: Choreography copyright infringement occurs when someone else uses the choreographer’s work without their permission.

This could involve performing the choreography, teaching it to others, recording it, or distributing recordings—all without the choreographer’s consent.

It’s worth noting that not all dance routines can be copyrighted. The U.S. Copyright Office, for example, doesn’t grant copyright protection to social dances, simple routines, or athletic movements.

Similarly, individual dance moves or steps can’t be copyrighted.

It’s the unique, creative arrangement of these movements into a larger choreographic work that is protected by copyright law.

Keep in mind that this is a simplified explanation and isn’t intended as legal advice. The specifics can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the individual case.

If you have specific questions or concerns about choreography copyright infringement, you should consult with a legal professional.

Choreography Copyright Infringement Cases

Choreography copyright infringement cases are legal disputes that arise when a party is accused of using choreographic work without the permission of the copyright holder.

These choreography copyright infringement cases are relatively rare, as it’s often difficult to prove that a choreographic work has been copied, but there have been a few notable examples in recent years.

Here are three key choreography copyright infringement cases:

Martha Graham vs. The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance: After Martha Graham’s death in 1991, a protracted legal battle ensued between her heir, Ron Protas, and her dance company, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.

The main issue was who owned the copyright to Graham’s choreographic works.

The court ultimately ruled in 2002 that the dance company owned the rights to most of Graham’s dances because they were created “for hire” while she was employed by the company.

Beyoncé vs. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: In 2011, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker accused Beyoncé of using choreography from two of her dances in the music video for “Countdown”.

Beyoncé acknowledged being inspired by De Keersmaeker but did not seek permission to use the choreography.

Despite the controversy, De Keersmaeker did not file a lawsuit, stating that it wasn’t worth pursuing.

Fortnite Dance Emotes Cases: Several choreographers and performers, including Alfonso Ribeiro, 2 Milly, and the mother of “Orange Shirt Kid”, have filed lawsuits against Epic Games, the creator of the video game Fortnite, for including dance moves resembling their copyrighted dance routines as emotes within the game.

These choreography copyright infringement cases bring up new and complex questions about the extent to which short choreographic works can be protected by copyright.

JaQuel Knight Choreography Copyright Protection

JaQuel Knight is a renowned choreographer famous for creating the iconic dance moves for Beyoncé’s hit song “Single Ladies.”

Recently, he achieved a significant milestone in the realm of Intellectual Property Laws by obtaining copyright protection for his distinctive choreography.

This accomplishment is groundbreaking because he is the first choreographer to receive such approval.

Recognising the importance of retaining control over his creative output, JaQuel Knight founded Knight Choreography and Music Publishing Inc.

This entity enables him to have greater authority and ownership of his artistic work.

This milestone sets a new precedent in the history of choreography, as no one had previously taken such a step to assert copyright protection over dance moves.

By establishing Knight Choreography and Music Publishing Inc., JaQuel Knight has paved the way for other choreographers to gain recognition and protection for their choreographic creations.

This move signifies a significant advancement in the understanding and acknowledgement of the intellectual property rights of choreographers within the entertainment industry.

Blog Middle Component Image

Protect Your Brand & Recover Revenue With Bytescare Brand Protection


In conclusion, the growing body of choreography copyright infringement cases underlines the increasing recognition of choreography as a form of intellectual property.

These cases reveal the complexities in defining and protecting choreographic works, which are often collaborative, fluid, and intrinsically tied to cultural contexts.

The distinctions between inspiration, homage, and outright plagiarism in choreography can be nebulous, requiring judicial bodies to navigate a delicate balance.

Existing laws like the Copyright Act of 1976 in the United States provide a starting point for addressing this issue, but legal and regulatory measures must continue evolving to reflect the realities of the dance industry today.

Technological advancements, particularly in digital media, have drastically reshaped how dance is created, disseminated, and consumed, presenting new opportunities and challenges for choreographic copyright.

The Most Widely Used Brand Protection Solution

Find, track and remove counterfeit listings and sellers with Bytescare Brand Protection software

Blog Middle Component Image Company Logo

Frequently Asked Questions 

What qualifies as choreography under copyright law?

Under copyright law, choreography is considered as a series of dance movements and patterns organised into a coherent whole.

This doesn’t include social dance steps and simple routines, or sports maneuvers. The choreography should be original and fixed in a tangible medium such as video recording or detailed notation for it to qualify for copyright protection.

How can a choreographer protect their work from copyright infringement?

Choreographers can protect their work by registering it with the copyright office in their country.

In the United States, for instance, choreography can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

It is also advisable to clearly document and keep a record of the work, typically through video recording or detailed dance notation.

 What counts as choreographic copyright infringement?

Choreographic copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a substantial part of a copyrighted choreography without the permission of the copyright owner.

This could involve performing, reproducing, distributing, or creating derivative works based on the copyrighted choreography.

How can I legally use someone else’s choreography?

To legally use someone else’s choreography, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder.

This usually involves a licensing agreement, where the copyright holder grants you certain rights to use the choreography under specific terms.

Fair use might apply in certain situations, like criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, but it’s often a complex legal doctrine to navigate.

What penalties exist for choreographic copyright infringement?

The penalties for choreographic copyright infringement can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Generally, they can include monetary damages, which may be calculated based on the actual damage caused to the copyright owner or the profits earned by the infringer from the infringement.

In some cases, injunctions may also be issued to prevent further infringement, and in serious cases, criminal penalties may apply.