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Choreography is a

[t]ype of composition whose elements interact in a non-directed fashion with each autonomous part knowing and following an observable predefined pattern of behavior for the entire (global) composition.[1]

U.S. copyright law[]

Choreography is

the composition and arrangement of a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into a coherent whole. Choreography is not synonymous with dance. It is a discrete subset of dance that encompasses certain types of compositional dances. For example, the legislative history for the 1976 Copyright Act states that "'choreographic works' do not include social dance steps and simple routines."[2]

Overview (U.S. copyright law)[]

"The term 'choreography' is derived from the Greek words 'choreia,' meaning 'dance,' and 'graphikos,' meaning 'to write.' A dance is a static and kinetic succession of bodily movements in certain rhythmic and spatial relationships and in relation to time and space."[3]

This category of work was first added to the list of copyrightable subject matter in the 1976 Copyright Act. Congress declined to define the terms pantomimes and choreographic works, relying instead on "fairly settled meanings."[4] While pantomimes and choreographic works, such as dances, can be fixed in a series of drawings or notations, they are usually fixed on film or videotape.

As the U.S. Copyright Office has noted:

Choreography and pantomimes are also copyrightable dramatic works. Choreography is the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns usually intended to be accompanied by music. To be protected by copyright, pantomimes and choreography need not tell a story or be presented before an audience. Each work, however, must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed. Note: Sports games and physical-fitness exercises are not considered choreographic works.[5]


  1. Framework for Cyber-Physical Systems, at 7.
  2. See H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, at 54 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5667; S. Rep. No. 94-473, at 52 (1975).
  3. Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition, Glossary, at 3.
  4. See H.R. Rep. No. 1476, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 55 (1976), at 53, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5666-67.
  5. U.S. Copyright Office, Pantomime and Choreographic Works (full-text).