Since the original question had two points, about legal and moral
standing, I'll answer the legal part:
The short answer is NO YOU MAY NOT WITHOUT PERMISSION.
US law is both extremely clear and exceptionally vague. The clear parts:
1. Any new creative work that is set down in a fixed form is instantly
copyrighted. There is a bare minimum of creativity needed to generate
2. Dance choreography is a copyrightable form.
3. The following acts are SOLELY allowed to the copyright holder or
specifically licensed user: performance, reproduction, reprinting,
publishing, public display, broadcast, recording, creation of a derivative
work. I may have forgotten a few.
4. US copyright law has no moral requirements; it is purely financial and
transactional in nature. You have no legal moral requirement (whatever
that means...) to acknowledge the author's wishes or even identify them as
the author. In Europe this is different.
5. There is no mechanism established in US copyright law for a person to
place an item into the public domain, nor for unclaimed and otherwise
orphan works except if they clearly fall into the public domain due to
age. See Creative Commons for an attempted fix.
6. If an item is not registered with the Copyright Office, you can only
sue for actual damages and demand cessation. (Usually neither worth it nor
desired in our world.) If an item has been registered with the Copyright
Office, you can sue for many thousands of dollars, plus court costs and
7. There are no provisions for traditional or folk material or forms, and
very little case law.
So, all modern contra dances are copyrighted works, and under the main part
of the law it is clear that you may not legally publish, reprint, call
(perform), or video tape them without permission from the copyright holder
(this is not necessarily the author).
The unclear part:
The Fair Use provision allows for anyone to use copyrighted material
without permission in any of the otherwise prohibited ways...under
unspecified circumstances, according to at least four criteria that must be
applied to each individual situation and weighted uniquely by a judge, and
which can only be determined with certainty for a given case by the Supreme
Court. So, basically useless as a planning guide.
*Whether you think the above should be true or not, it is correct based on
Feel free to ask questions. I actually enjoy this stuff.
Youth Services Librarian, Mahomet Public Library
Currently reading: *The Different Girl* by Gordon Dahlquist
Currently learning: How to set up an automated email system.
On Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 2:54 PM, Colin Hume via Callers <
On Sat, 23 Jan 2016 10:47:04 -0500, Tom Hinds via
My understanding is that here in the US
choreography can't be
protected by law but the written word or the description of it can
be legally copyrighted.
It would be interesting to know what the law is in the UK.
My understanding is that it's the same here. But when we've discussed
copyright on lists the usual conclusion is that there just isn't
enough money in it for anyone to make a fuss no matter what happens!
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