Thursday 30 May 2019

IP and Dance

Standard YouTube Licence

Jane Lambert

I once heard Cerys Matthews describe Ballet Cymru as "the pride of Newport and the pride of Wales". I would not dissent except to add that that it is also the pride of the whole UK.  The reason I mention the company today is that it is about to perform Romeo a Juliet at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport. It will then visit Bangor, Brecon, Porthcawl and Milford Haven as well as venues in England.  The company will visit the Pontio Centre at Bangor on the 4 June.  I was at the Pontio the last time Ballet Cymru visited that venue and was almost as impressed by the centre as I was by the entertainment. Northwest Wales is beautiful and the M-SParc (the Menai Science Park) has created an environment for knowledge-based businesses to flourish but enterprising, innovative and creative people also need the arts. The Pontio delivers the best on stage and screen.

Ballet Cymru's production is a great show.  One of the best interpretations of Shakespeare's tragedy that I have seen.  It stands comparison with Birmingham Royal Ballet's, English National Ballet's, the Mariinsky's. Northern Ballet's, Scottish Ballet's and even the Royal Ballet's, all of which I know. I have seen and reviewed Ballet Cymru's Romeo a Juliet twice (see A Romeo and Juliet for Our Times 7 Nov 2016 and They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport 14 May 2013 Terpsichore).

Ballet Cymru is based in Rogerstone which is a township just outside Newport. It would be wrong to call it a suburb of Newport even though it is within that local authority's boundaries because the folk who live in that part of Wales have a strong sense of local identity. Caerleon is also within the city limits but it has existed since Roman times. One of Ballet Cymru's neighbours is the Intellectual Property Office  which describes itself as "the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright."

Copyright protects the work of artists, broadcasters, composers, dramatists, filmmakers, publishers, recording studios other creative persons from unlicensed plagiarism and other exploitation.  Unlike patents, trade marks and registered designs, it does not have to be registered in the UK. The right comes into being automatically so long as the conditions for the subsistence of copyright are net. These are originality in the case of artistic, dramatic, literary and musical works and fixation and qualification in the case of all works. "Originality" used to mean independent skill and labour but is now intellectual creation.  "Fixation" means writing the work down or otherwise recording it. "Qualification" means the nationality or residence of the author or his employer or the place of publication. Basically, that includes a British national or resident or the national or resident of another country that provides reciprocal protection to the works of British authors under the Berne Convention or otherwise. 

Copyright is not necessarily infringed by making a similar work (see Davies v Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club (1986) Ltd [2019] EWHC 1252 (Ch) (15 May 2019) which I discussed in Copyright: Davies v Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club 25 May 2019 NIPC Law). It is infringed by copying or by doing in relation to the work one the other restrictive acts mentioned in s.16 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  Similarity between two works and may suggest that there has been copying particularly when the author of the later work had the opportunity to see the earlier one but there may be many other reasons for such similarity such as functional exigency or sometimes mere coincidence.

A ballet is likely to consist of lots of copyright works.  There is the score for a start and then possibly the libretto.  Copyright can also subsist in choreography as a dramatic work so long as it is recorded in Benesch or some other notation (see my article Cracking Nuts - Copyright in Choreography 24 Nov 2011 IP Northwest).  The backdrop of the set and the designs of the fabric may well be original artistic works. There is also likely to be design right in the designs of the costumes and perhaps the props and sets. Finally, each and every one of the dancers and musicians has the right not to be filmed, taped or broadcast without consent under Part II of the 1988 Act (see Rights in Performances).

Actors tell each other to "break a leg" when they go on stage.  That is not really appropriate for dancers because they sometimes do.  They wish each other "toi, toi, toi", "chookas" or sometimes even "merde" instead.   Let's wish Ballet Cymru toi, toi, toi at the Riverfront tonight.   Do try to catch them on their tour of Wales if you possibly can.  If you want to discuss this article or copyright in general, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

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