Interviews

Interview Jamaican, Simone Harris, founder of “Choreography is Copyrightable”

Written by Xavier Murphy

This week we interview Jamaican, Simone Harris, founder of “Choreography is Copyrightable”.  The “Choreography is Copyrightable” is an initiative designed to inform and educate choreographers about their rights under copyright law. According to Harris, “choreographers in the Caribbean region have for far too long been treated as the forgotten creators of original content….they have just as much legal protection from infringements as musicians and should be aware of their rights under law.” 

Can you give us the background on “Choreography is Copyrightable”?
Choreography is Copyrightable™ is a dance copyright initiative designed to inform and educate choreographers across the Caribbean region about their rights under Copyright law and the benefits of enforcing these rights.

As with creators of musical works, for choreographers to receive protection under Copyright law, works must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

Choreography is Copyrightable™ recognizes that a great majority of regional choreographers:

  • May not understand their rights as creators of original works.
  • May not have knowledge of dance notation systems or may not be able to afford to facilitate notation,
  • May not have ready access to necessary technology or,
  • May not be able to afford to pay for access to recording equipment

 

The project is therefore specifically designed to provide the knowledge and assistance needed for choreographers to have their works “fixed,” thereby giving them protection under copyright, while educating them about copyright law and dance.

Though only a year old, the CIC team of Simone Harris, Neila Ebanks, Marlon Simms, Kayanne Anderson Esq and Renee Lynch have hosted 2 successful workshops in Jamaica and Barbados. The project has received support from the PumaCreative initiative, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, as well as the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) and Invest Barbados.

What are your main goals?
Through our workshops and social media outlets, we hope:

•              To educate choreographers about the value of having their works “fixed” thereby protecting their creative works under copyright law while exposing them to dance notation systems;

•              To provide choreographers with the information and tools necessary to lobby their respective governmental bodies to enhance protection as it relates to intellectual property laws and choreographic works; (if needed)

•              To develop a library of notated works created by choreographers in the region;

·                     To create a relationship between music performance royalty entities in the region to ensure that choreographers have clear and definitive channels through which they obtain permission to use musical works;

What are the benefits of copyrighting Choreography?
There is no formal registration necessary to obtain copyright. All that is required is that the work be “fixed.” With that said, once your work is copyright protected it makes it illegal for anyone to reproduce, distribute, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display your work without your permission.

Are there any provisions in the International Copyright laws provided to make Choreography Copyrightable?
Authors automatically receive copyright protection in all countries that are parties to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, or parties to the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). Most countries belong to at least one of these conventions. In general terms, choreography will be protected by copyright law as a ‘choreographic show’ (a sub-category of ‘dramatic works’), provided it is original and is recorded in material form or ‘fixed.’

What has been the response by Choreographers when they learn about your initiative?
The response has been quite good. This has been a section of the industry that has been severely underserviced over the years. Many choreographers were unaware that dance could be protected under copyright law. In fact several of our workshop attendees, which included persons from Trinidad, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Jamaica, have had concerns about the use of their works by others (even by commercial entities) without their permission.

If someone wanted to copyright their Choreography, what should they do?
Choreography can be copyright protected through ‘fixing’ of the work. By ‘fixing’ we mean either using a form of dance notation (similar to a musical score) to ‘write’ the work down or by filming the work. Read more here about the differences between the two: http://dancecopyright.info/2010/10/09/thoughts-on-notation-film-for-dance-documentation/

Is there a place to register Choreography?
Registration is not compulsory for copyright protection and so there is no specific entity in Jamaica that offers that as a service. There is however, an exception in the Bahamas where there is a copyright registration process, which is handled by their Registrar General’s Office.

The team is mainly Jamaican. Was there a need you saw for Jamaican and Caribbean dancers to copyright their work?
The team is mainly Jamaican but we work closely with persons based in the US and across the Caribbean. The region is awash with talent but as artistes ourselves with knowledge of the dance industry internationally, we were aware of certain shortcomings in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean when it came to dance and copyright and felt the need to create an initiative that would educate and empower choreographers in the same way that choreographers in other parts of the world are empowered.

What other projects are you working on?
We are very excited about this year. In addition to conducting our workshops, we are currently working with the Dance Notation Bureau (NY) and the Edna Manley College of the Performing Arts to lay the foundation for the first dance notation library in the region, which of course will represent a major milestone for the team and the dance community in general.

Thank you for the interview?
You are welcome.

For more information visit the Choreography is Copyrightable website.

About the author

Xavier Murphy