Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Matt Kovac


Although approaches rooted in copyright law are available, choreographers tend to rely instead on contract law in order to control distribution of their work; choreographers license their ballets to dance companies via contracts which are typically negotiated on an ad hoc basis. This relatively conservative approach allows choreographers to maintain tight artistic control over subsequent reproductions of their ballets, but it comes at a cost to both the dance community and the general public. This conservative approach to distribution means that a choreographic work may be performed infrequently or not at all, and it also forecloses the possibility for transformative adaptations that would benefit individual dancers and the general public in several significant ways. Is there a possibility of a "middle-ground approach," a framework utilizing copyright law (rather than exclusively contract law) that provides a choreographer with certain artistic assurances, but allows for a far greater dissemination of the choreographer's work? This note argues that such an approach is possible, using existing models in copyright law.