Laying Down – and Copyrighting – Your Moves

06 March 2013

While Bollywood filmmakers strive for copyright protection, choreographer director Remo D’Souza has taken the unprecedented step of copyrighting parts of the dance from his song Bezubaan from his upcoming directorial debut ABCD – Any Body Can Dance in hopes of preventing copyright violations – and of keeping the dance from being used in inappropriate situations.

“There have been instances in the past where ballet dance, etc, have been copyrighted,” says Krishna Jhala, an associate at PSA Legal Counsellors in New Delhi. “In Academy of General Edu., Manipal and Anr. v. Malini Mallya, the Supreme Court of India observed that ballet dance formed part of dramatic work for the purpose of copyright.”

Nevertheless, “copyright law with respect to choreographic steps is very nascent in India, and jurisprudence is still developing on this subject,” she says.

According to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, dance forms part of dramatic work. “Section 2(h) of the Act defines dramatic work that includes choreographic work or entertainment in dumb show which is fixed in writing or otherwise but does not include a cinematograph film,” Neeraj Dubey, principal senior associate at PSA, tells Asia IP. “The Act also provides protection to a dance performer by granting the performer’s right. The performer’s right envisages infringement when sound or visual recordings are reproduced, broadcasted or communicated to the public without the consent of the performer.”

D’Souza says he wants “to take this forward and copyright the sequence that I have conceived and used for the song Bezubaan. It’s the first number that we are rolling out, so I don’t want this to be copied and used in a manner that doesn’t fit its extravagance, as it is shown in the movie.”

If people want to perform the dance moves in any media, they must pay royalties as if they are singing copyrighted songs, he says. “Of course, if I have the copyright, nobody will be able to perform the same steps on any platform. If they wish to, they can pay me royalty,” added D’Souza.

However, not every medium or person will need to pay royalty for performing his moves. Section 39 of the Act states that infringement of a performer’s right will not take place where sound or visual recording is for bona fide use or where excerpts of performance are used for reporting of current events, says Dubey. “As per Section 52 of the Act, copyright infringement will not take place when dramatic work is reproduced for private use, criticism, review, judicial proceeding or member of either house of legislature or educational institutions.”

Bezubaan features winners from Indian reality television show Dance India Dance (who also play lead characters in the film) and Lauren Gottlieb from the American reality show, So You Think You Can Dance, all dancing in the rain.

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