Recently in the media space, there have been a number of copyright infringement matters bordering on the issues of unauthorized copying or reproducing of a dance move and/or choreography. A few of such cases are the “the Carlton” dance invented by Alfonso Ribeiro and used by his character ‘Carlton’ in the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” series, “the Floss”, “the Milly Rock” and so many others. Some of these matters are currently before the judiciary in various jurisdictions while some have remained complaints on the internet only. Irrespective of the outcome of these matters, it is relevant to state that the issue of infringement of copyright in dance moves/ choreography is becoming more frequent and is one to be addressed.
Section 1(1) of the Copyright Act, CAP 28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, (the “Act”) states that the following works are eligible for copyright: (a) literary works; (b) musical works; (c) artistic works; (d) cinematographic films, (e) sound recording; and (f) broadcasts. The Act further defines Literary Works to ‘choreographic works’. Accordingly, choreographic work refers to a composition of movements for dancing or any other patterned succession of gestures mostly created to accompanying music.
Pursuant to section 1(2) of the Act, choreography will enjoy copyright protection if enough effort has been expended in making it original and if it is fixed in a definite medium of expression - recorded in a video, illustrated in a diagram, etc. For a form of dance move to enjoy copyright protection under Nigerian law, such dance move must be deemed to be a choreographic work as defined in the Act, and it must be shown that sufficient effort has been expended in creating the dance move to give it an original character.
There is currently no Nigerian case law on the application of copyright to dance moves, nonetheless, we are confident that this area of law would be further developed and detailed through case law and the amendments of the relevant statues.
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Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun
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