Beyonce May Get Sued For Copyright Infringement Because Of The Way She Danced

from the infringement-insanity dept

I have to admit that I still have trouble with the idea that choreography is subject to copyright. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why that makes any sense. It’s come up from time to time, such as when the “inventor” of “The Electric Slide” sought to pull down videos on YouTube. Then there were the heirs of a choreographer planning to go after dancers who don’t pay to honor the choreographer’s legacy, of course. The latest is a story making the rounds that famed singer Beyonce may be facing a copyright infringement lawsuit for a recent video. You can see the full video below, or just jump to the second video which compares some of her moves to a Belgian dance company, called Rosas, choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

There’s no doubt that it appears that there’s a tiny portion of the Beyonce video that is inspired by the Rosas video. Historically, people would have referred to that as an homage, not as infringement, but welcome to the modern world. I’m curious, by the way, how anyone can now claim that this takes anything away from Rosas. It’s not as if people will say “gee, I saw Beyonce dance like that, so I won’t bother watching Rosas any more.” Besides the “moves” in question seem pretty limited.

Also, the second half of the video seems to imply that some rather basic dance moves also belong to Rosas, which, if true, would make an awful lot of music videos infringing.

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Comments on “Beyonce May Get Sued For Copyright Infringement Because Of The Way She Danced”

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DogBreath says:

Re: I copyrighted

I copyrighted spinning in a circular motion, bending at the waist, and hip gyrations


You copyrighted copulation? Good one.

I wonder if it’s too late to patent it. If the patent was granted I guess they would need to show a lot of old porn as prior art to get it invalidated, or no one will be getting laid for the next 20 years without being sued for patent infringement.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I copyrighted

Wait, if that book contains sexual positions then it means they were all copyrighted at some point. Thank God it’s already public domain!

I’ll see your Public Domain, and raise you three words: Retroactive Copyright Extensions.

Just because it’s in the public domain right now doesn’t mean that some knuckleheads won’t pass a stupid law or sign a silly treaty, and put the Kama Sutra and all it’s “moves” back under copyright protection.

All our days of freetardian sexual positions are numbered. Oh, you can still do them, you just will have to pay a licensing fee to the copyright holder perform them. And if you somehow are observed by others, you will also need to pay a public performance fee too.

TasMot (profile) says:

Actually, this could be good

Now I won’t have to dance with my wife anymore for fear of being sued for a copyright infringing dance move. Go white boy go….. OK, just to be clear, I like dancing with my wife, but all my life I have been accused of dancing like a white boy (I am) and badly (even my best friends accuse me of this). But, I’ll have a good excuse not to dance now. Also to be clear, is this just a copyright infringement (that is somehow permanently set down in something) or is it also going to be a performance infringement. And, does this mean that there is going to be some dance collection society showing up at my house to make sure the proper fees are collected (maybe GEMA, they like doing stupid things like that whether they cover the artist or not).

Anonymous Coward says:

Walk this way...

I’m pretty sure my great, great, great, great, great, great….. grandfather was the first to walk by putting one foot in front of the other. All you freetards going about your day without paying where payment is obviously due better start fucking hopping. Next person I see walking down the street is either paying me $5 or I’m busting their knee caps.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m all for innovation, give us something original instead of the “inspired” theivery that is being delivered.

Also this isn’t the first time Beyonce has been accused of borrowing from someone else’s work without permission. I wonder how she would feel if people began taking her new and original ideas and…Oh wait what new and original ideas.

Hmmm... says:

Seemed like a ridiculous claim...

until I watched the second video. Doesn’t look like it’s just the moves that were copied, granted I watched without sound but the whole set up looked way too similar to say Beyonce’s dance was simply “inspired” by the stuff from Rosas.

However, personally I don’t think it matters and think Rosas should f-off…but it does bring to mind a certain cheerleader movie I saw one time. 🙂

ScooterBait says:

Breech in her breaches

Since this video seriously lacks imagination, continuity or originality, there is no doubt the choreographer lifted the moves. Doubtless also, it was done without attribution or payment. Since dance moves are the result of imagination and innovation, they are intellectual property and should be subject to protection if the originator is actively trying to use them.
You mislead with the fake argument that this is about viewers preferring Beyonce and not meriting the original inventor. This is about her enriching herself at another’s expense. She profits from this video, so why not pay dues to the people whose ideas are being ripped?
If, by some long stretch of the imagination, Beyond managed to popularize any of this haphazard collection of moves, the original inventor is unlikely to be rewarded through increased recognition. Given Beyonce’s existing fame, Rosas would likely risk being seen as an imitator (if seen at all).
Of course if everyday people want to use these moves, they should be free to do so. But a stage performer is a different beast, and in this case it looks like cynical theft.

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

This is almost as stupid as the story in the Metro about the guy who got hassled by police for taking pictures of his own daughter eating ice cream in a shopping mall. Apparently the shopping mall has a no photographs policy to protect the “privacy” of employees who work in a public venue serving the public.

So far as I can see there is nothing “unique” about any of those dance moves.

dancer says:

perhaps choreography is not copyrighted, but film certainly is no? She has not just taken choreography but also taken cinematography, costuming, and set design… maybe she should just give a couple of bucks (I am sure by now she has a few spare lying around) to Anne (the “ripped off” one). It would just be a lot more respectful. I was once in a show that Madonna came to watch. She liked a part so much that she BOUGHT it. The company was flown to LA to teach her and her dancers and got a fee – respectful no?
just for fun watch these two in separate windows at the same time…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Respectful? maybe, functional? no.

People should be free to use whatever they want or need without having to ask for permission or else only Madonna’s of our times would be able to afford anything.

Street dancer would be forbiden from learning the ropes, buskers suffer today to find a corner in the streets to play music because of collection agencies, this is no way to spread or keep culture ALIVE AND WELL!

Anonymous Coward says:

Too bad videocameras haven't existed for a couple thousand years...

… Because if they had you could likely find prior “art” for EVERY dance “move” out there. After all, mechanically, human beings only have so much range of motion, in a similar manner, to all other human beings. Also, why does it matter if its set to music or not? If the range of motion / movement was part of anything else couldn’t it be considered “prior art” as well? After all, if you “lifted it” and put it to music you were “stealing” it from someone else… right?

Anonymous Coward says:

When Donaldson v Beckett reached the House of Lords in 1774 Lord Camden was most strident in his rejection of the common law copyright, warning the Lords that should they vote in favour of common law copyright, effectively a perpetual copyright, “all our learning will be locked up in the hands of the Tonsons and the Lintots of the age”. Moreover he warned that booksellers would then set upon books whatever price they pleased “till the public became as much their slaves, as their own hackney compilers are”. He declared that “Knowledge and science are not things to be bound in such cobweb chains.”


Funny how history keeps playing itself in circles, is like people never learn how to find a balance.

Anise Blue (profile) says:

Wrong is Wrong.

?Tribute? is cool but if you?re going to lift things whole cloth you should pay royalties. B is certainly someone who can afford to do that. This would be a very different story if she had purchased the dances she loved and wanted to use. (As has been noted, choreographers sell their dances all the time…this is part of how you make your living as an artist…)

Weird Al is allowed under copyright law to do ?parodies? without getting permission from the original artists. But he never parodies anyone who does not want him to.

Yes, it’s true that someone trying to copyright a high leg kick is crazy. But this is the same movement type/range, framing, costuming, sequencing. This is NOT a claim based on non-specific moves that we’ve all seen a gazillion times. Anyone with eyes can see it has more merit than that.

As far as I’m concerned, a big girl like B should know right from wrong even if it turns out there?s no law on the books that says she can?t do what she did. Artist to artist, it is what?s known as R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wrong is Wrong.

Nothing wrong with “lifting” entire cloths unless you got there and take the whole costumes from said person.

What is really wrong is this culture of “permission”, that puts the power to stop everybody from doing something in the hands of a few people.

Just imagine what restaurants would be like if everyone could stop others from making the same dishes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wrong is Wrong.

You want to know what real respect would look like?
It would be to Beyonce to be able to tell everybody where she “lifted” the ideas from so that person could get some credit and maybe even have some doors open up so that person could make their own money with their own work instead of trying to exploit others implementations and uses of the same ideas.

bells says:

I don't buy it

I don’t buy into any of this ‘homage’ BS, theft is theft. Beyonce makes sooo much money off appropriating other people’s work (this was not the first time) and has the nerve to accept awards for things like song writing and give interviews on how she creates her ‘art’. Her only art is shaking her behind really fast while she screams in a microphone.

This lifting of choreography is a problem, and when we start allowing this and calling it inspiration or a homage, then what’s to stop anyone from jacking anyone else’s work? If she was seriously paying homage or getting inspired, then she would have contacted the Belgian choreographer and we would not have heard a peep. Maybe she figures it’s just cheaper to settle lawsuits rather than respect intellectual property, but that is classless and wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I don't buy it

I guess you totally missed that the whole song was made up of parts from other artists, lyrics, dance moves….THE WHOLE SONG.

Killing me softly – written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, for no one specifically, although others have covered it (Roberta Flack being the biggest hit).

And I’m still Fallin’ – I recognize this lyric, but can’t quite place where it comes from.

Still the one I need – I thought of Shania Twains song, but that might not be right either.

I will always be with you – All dogs go to heaven, or Sheena Easton, take your pick.

The curled up lip at :23 – a take off Rhianna (one of her signature moves)

(we be makin love in (R Kelly) 5)

Seriously…..break each piece down. The whole thing is a mash up. I would say that until Beyonce did that dance, no one outside of a select group of people had even heard of Rosas.

Now the only thing they are going to be associated with is trolling, instead of ‘omg, we got exposure!’.

Dr Michael Factor (user link) says:

copyright in choreography

Choreography is a public performance. Song and dance and speeches and plays are all treated the same way by copyright law.

Copyright infringement does not require damages. The basic philosophical understanding is that the creator retains rights in how his creation is used.

The idea of homage requires more discussion. Mel Brookes was particularly good at self-homage and referring to other Brookes movies, so in Robin Hood – Men in Tights, he had a black sherriff – which worked in Blazing Saddles.

If an image in Toy Story is reminiscent of, and pays tribute to a iconic scene in Raders of the Lost Ark, should the animators require to obtian permission from Spielberg? If the image is recognizable, it is significant. This issue comes up from time to time. Recently it was scrutinized in Australia in the Men at Work song having a flute effect known from a song owned by the Girl Guides.

Copyright Law does, however, need an overhaul.

Wig says:

Some more information

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has released a statement.

You can find the original (dutch) here:
andthe Google translation here:

I hope she realizes that legal action is probably not the best way to proceed. On the other hand, it would be equally nice of Beyonc? to simply admit they liked the moves in a 30-year old dance performance enough to copy them…

Cynthia Meyers (profile) says:


I remember when Rosas took the dance world by storm with that dance. So revolutionary, people said, to use gesture in unison! I remember thinking the hype was overblown back then. De Keersmaeker had taken a basic idea, explored by many others, and made an especially effective piece with it.
Looking at the Google translation of De Keersmaeker’s statement, I notice that she points out that it took popular culture “30 years” to pay attention to her groundbreaking avant garde work.
Her actual grievance may be that it took that long for her to influence popular culture!

Anonymous Coward says:

Beyonce has again and again been hit with this sort of thing, mostly because her work too often appears to be less than original. Too much of her stuff seems to be very, very close to others work.

Legal? Who knows. It’s just not very original, and the original artists certain merit at least getting their names out there for people to know the difference.

Apples n oranges says:

U say tomato

A large part of any branding lies in recognizable signature look, sound, and motion. Take Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, for example, any number of dance artists have danced that dance. But none of them would represent it as their own signature move, and none could sell a top music video passing that move off as their own choreography.

It matters that Beyonce isn’t a nobody kid doing the move on the street non-commercially. She is diluting the branding of another enterprise by using their signature moves without credit to make money for herself.

Apples n oranges says:

U say tomato

A large part of any branding lies in recognizable signature look, sound, and motion. Take Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, for example, any number of dance artists have danced that dance. But none of them would represent it as their own signature move, and none could sell a top music video passing that move off as their own choreography.

It matters that Beyonce isn’t a nobody kid doing the move on the street non-commercially. She is diluting the branding of another enterprise by using their signature moves without credit to make money for herself.

Natasha says:

you are so ignorant you can see that that video is based on the dance by rosas. she has not only copied the motifs but also the costumes and the setting. she has based many of annes dances in the videos. how can you be so blind to this? the dance by anne is a classic and beyonce had no right to copy the dance. beyonce clearly is very unoriginal and will need to get herself a good lawyer.

Andrew says:

it’s not an homage if the person is still living. If you want to use someones idea you have to make it your own. The set up, costumes and movements were way to similar. Usually, If the person is still living you need to have permission and buy the choreography rights. There aren’t managers and agents for people who create dances, so the rules for using movement is a little gray. However, Song writers and authors get copyright protection as well as domain over their creative works, why should choreographers?

Carlos says:

the matter here is just to give credit to creator. In modern dance the copyright thing is still in development, as it is very complex to copyright a style or movement. It is like in that other video totally inspired in Bob Fosse’s choreography. Single Ladies was a copy of “Mexican Breakfast” created in the 50’s .
For sure Beyonce is not an intelligent person and doesn’t know what is out there, and her team is equally ignorant.

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