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Copyrighting Dance Steps–The Death of Choreography

February 24, 2009

Note from a reader (see also my post Copyrights and Dancing):

Dear Mr. Kinsella,

I have yet to read your book or the Boldrin and Levine book, but just reading your blog posts [e.g. There are No Good Arguments for Intellectual Property; What's Wrong with Theft?] and the discussions they generate has convinced me of your position. It seems to me that the only question worth considering is Are ideas property? If an IP proponent could give a good answer to this question, we could have a good debate. But the replies to your argument seem desperate and incoherent.

I’m an amateur choreographer so I know that IP is not necessary for creation. Dancers take movement where ever we can find it. The first person to get a copyright on walking would own the dance community and the world, in fact. The first routine I put together used movement from several other performers. If IP were to apply to dance, all dance communities would die the next day.

The dance community is experiencing the wrath of IP regarding music, however. We have had problems with the music that we use. Promoters who videotape our performances are reluctant to sell the DVDs because the artists might sue the promoters if their music is used. YouTube is censoring videos in which it can recognize the music in the background. I find this ridiculous. If I have already paid my $0.99 for your song and created a visual expression of the music, from whence do you get the right to now “own” my expression of your song?

I think that my dance experience instilled in me a skepticism about IP, but still I find your intellectual arguments indisputable.

Yours,

[C.E.]

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