Contemplating Copyright

Dance is an odd artistic medium. While choreography is visual, it’s often so tied to its accompanying musical work that to separate the two is offensive to its creator. When dancers use popular music without licensing it for certain uses (broadcasting, live performances, etc), problems arise. Things become more complex when choreography is posted on the Internet, where the battle for free use of copyrighted works is being fought, where illegal mash-ups thrive and Flikr images can easily be Photoshopped.

Why do I feel compelled to discuss this now? Well, the other day, my dance team’s channel was suspended on Youtube for copyright infringement. Over 300 videos (most made by me!) unable to be accessed. The horror!

UN1TE Dance Company‘s choreographers feel free to use whatever music they like in their classes. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy when you put videos from those classes online.

Class with UN1TE
Joel Natoc teaches a class for UN1TE (photo by John Orcullo)

Youtube used to either cut the audio out (based on distribution agreements with various record labels) or remove the video altogether. Now, it seems, they’ve taken to suspending accounts if you are flagged one too many times for this offense.

Let’s be clear – all of the video content is mine, except in some cases where I gained permission to use the footage. And the choreography belongs to its respective creators. So, it seems unfair that the visual portion can’t be seen.

However, I do recognize the larger problems that this represents for the hip hop dance community and would like to address them properly. I’m considering organizing an event (with a panel of experts) for those interested in the smallest details of copyright law as it applies to the arts.

Those who’ve responded to my call for help on Twitter have given me links to CIPO, SOCAN, CMPA, and other various acronyms. I’m excited to read Michael Geist’s site on the topic, too.

I’ve created a temporary Youtube channel for UN1TE Dance Company for your viewing pleasure.

Please note that many of the videos posted here on my blog will not play. It is a sad, sad time for Shadling.


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5 thoughts on “Contemplating Copyright”

  1. Greetings,

    I suspect that the new book, Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010), will be of interest to your readers.

    Dr. Strangelove
    University of Ottawa

    Table of Contents

    1. Home Movies in a Global Village
    2. The Home and Family on YouTube
    3. Video Diaries: The Real You in YouTube
    4. Women of the ‘Tube
    5. The YouTube Community
    6. The YouTube Wars: Elections, Religion, and Armed Conflict
    7. The Post-television Audience

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