Dance is the most expressive of art forms as the performer participates with both, her mind and body with full swing and energy and yet manages to maintain the discipline that the dance form mandates. Cultures all over the world have seen the advent and growth of numerous dance forms with every dance having a typical form and routine associated with it. Some dance forms such as Bharatnaatyam or Kathak have a predefined set of rules and routines for the entire dance performance, while steps like the Bhangda step, the Bihu style or the famous pop-singer Psy’s “Gangnam style” are singular steps complete in themselves. Recently, the US Copyright Office refused to register the “Carlton dance” routine by ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s star Alfonso Ribeiro. According to the copyright office it was a mere combination of three dance steps incapable of registration. In the case of Academy of General Edu., Manipal and Ors. vs. B. Malini Mallya, the Supreme Court held that a new form of a ballet dance which is reproduced in a literary format is considered as a dramatic work. Thus, if a person wants to register the copyright in a choreographic work, he/she will be required to reduce it in writing or any other form and apply for registration in that form only.

Commendable are the skills of a choreographer who is primarily the author of a unique sequential arrangement in a dance number. In India, dance moves being ‘choreographic works’ are protected under the Copyright Act, 1957 (“the Act”). Section 2(h) of the Act makes it very clear that choreographic work falls within the meaning of ‘dramatic work’ under copyright law.

It is however debatable whether a single dance move involving sufficient skill and judgment can be considered to be intellectual property capable of legal protection or whether the Act intends to only protect a sequence of steps in dance.

Compiled by: Adv. Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan

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