Friday, June 22, 2012

murder on the dancefloor, but not copyrightability

The Copyright Office issued an interesting policy statement on registration of certain compilations, stating the Office’s position that things like collections of dance moves or exercise moves would be unregistrable.  37 CFR Part 201, [DocketNo. 2012-6], Registration of Claims to Copyright.  What struck me is what seems to be so natural as to be unnoticeable: the difference in mediums that leads us to see copyrightable creativity easily in some, less easily in others. Because the standard for originality is so low, we usually aren’t confronted with these distinctions, but we can’t avoid them entirely. 

So, the Office says that it would register “a claim in an original compilation of the names of the author’s 50 favorite restaurants.  While neither a restaurant nor the name of a restaurant may be protected by copyright, a list of 50 restaurant names may constitute a literary work – a category of work specified in section 102(a) – based on the author’s original selection and/or arrangement of the author’s fifty favorite restaurants.”  By contrast, a “mere compilation of physical movements does not rise to the level of choreographic authorship unless it contains sufficient attributes of a work of choreography.… [T]he mere selection and arrangement of physical movements does not in itself support a claim of choreographic authorship.… Choreographic authorship is considered, for copyright purposes, to be the composition and arrangement of a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into an integrated, coherent, and expressive whole.”  But what makes an integrated, coherent, and expressive whole?  A list of 50 chosen restaurants apparently is automatically that (or doesn’t have to be that because the medium of transmission is words, which amounts to the same thing), whereas “[s]imple dance routines” aren’t.

No comments: