Copyright Protection for Viral and Original Dances or Choreographies

In this present era of social media interconnectivity, a dance may originate in Kenya or Ghana and then, get circulated around the world within a short or long period of time. Several people may adopt such dances as theirs or reproduce them for profits without ever crediting the original creators of the dance steps. Copyright as a form of Intellectual Property protection evolved to create legal backing that ensures all works of creatives are rightly attributed to their origins.

An interesting matter arose revolving around the famous ‘Carlton dance’, created and popularised by Alfonso Ribeiro who co-starred alongside Will Smith in the globally adored and family favourite sitcom, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ which aired in the 90’s. This dance was a personalized, creative and comical expression created by Alfonso for his character – Carlton Banks, who was the son of a rich and renowned lawyer in America – Philip Banks. Due to the perceived sense of ‘white privileges’ occurring at the time, the ‘Carlton dance’ was made to depict the bourgeoisie life the Banks family lived despite being African-American. Accordingly, the dance is extremely well-known and is always used to mimic or recall the memory of Alfonso Ribeiro’s role in the critically-acclaimed series, which enjoyed a prominent world-wide audience to date.

 

The impact and popularity of the dance has spiked more in recent times. For example, globally played online video games such as Fortnite and NBA 2K added the ‘Carlton dance’ within the two games. Both video games boast an impressive number of players worldwide. It is worth mentioning that as of the year 2021, Fortnite has 350 million registered players across the globe, according to Games Radar[1]. Fortnite, in particular, provided the dance as a celebratory feature for gamers to purchase as an ‘emote’ for their in-game characters to execute the dance whenever they achieved a deed such as killing another gamer or successfully reaching a goal in the game, etc.

 

As a result of EPIC Games (creators of Fortnite) and Take-Two Interactive (creators of NBA 2K) gaining profits from selling the Carlton dance as an in-game addition to their consumers, Alfonso Ribeiro sued both companies in California, USA, for unfairly profiting from his ‘creative expression and likeness’[2]. Intellectual Property, particularly ‘Copyright’, is an area of law that provides rights of protection and compensation against infringement of creative works such as: literary works, musical, artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings and broadcasts.

 

Every country, has a legislation or set of legislations and/or regulatory frameworks governing the registration, lawful exploitation and protection of intellectual property rights. The relevant laws governing intellectual property matters in Nigeria include the Copyright Act[3], Trademarks Act[4], Patents and Designs Act[5], among others.

 

A Performer’s right is protectable under copyright laws, such right vests in the performer, an exclusive right to control a stipulated list of actions with respect to his/her performance. In Nigeria for example, section 26 of the Copyright Act listed the rights of a Performer to include the right to control the performance, recording, broadcasting live, reproducing in any material form, and adaptation of the performance.[6] The section further defined “performance” to include;

 (a) a dramatic performance (which includes dance and mime);

(b) a musical performance; and

(c) a reading or recitation of literary act or any similar presentation which is or so far as it is, a live performance given by one or more individuals[7]

The above legal provisions suggest that a performer such as Alfonso Ribeiro has the exclusive right to control the performance, recording, live broadcasting, reproductions or adaptation of his ‘Carlton Dance’. This exclusive right is vested in the performer for 50 years, commencing from the end of the year in which the performance first occurred.[8]

 

The aim of the Copyright Act in vesting performers of dances with such an exclusive right for the period of 50 years may be seen to be a well calculated one. This exclusive right enables the performers to benefit from the intellectual and creative dance steps they took the time to create. Dancing is a creative skill, as well as a hobby for many that could be their source of income or fame. It also breeds a level of ingenuity that should be encouraged and protected from infringement, in order to ensure that the creators of such dance steps are properly credited and compensated.

 

In this present era of social media interconnectivity, a dance may originate in Kenya or Ghana and then, get circulated around the world within a short or long period of time. Several people may adopt such dances as theirs or reproduce them for profits without ever crediting the original creators of the dance steps. Copyright as a form of Intellectual Property protection evolved to create legal backing that ensures all works of creatives are rightly attributed to their origins. Some examples of such viral dances are:

 

S/N POPULAR DANCE CREATOR (PERSON OR COMMUNITY) YEAR COUNTRY POPULARISED BY
1. SHAKU SHAKU AGEGE, LAGOS 2017 NIGERIA MR. REAL
2. AZONTO KPALONGO – JAMESTOWN 2011 GHANA SARKODIE
3. ZANKU (LEGWORK) ZLATAN 2019 NIGERIA ZLATAN
4. PILOLO & KUPE INCREDIBLE ZIGI 2019 GHANA INCREDIBLE ZIGI
5. AKWAABA MR. EAZI, PATAPAA, PAPPY AND KOJO 2018 GHANA & NIGERIA MR. EAZI
6. GBEKU ZLATAN 2019 NIGERIA ZLATAN
7. DAB ATLANTA, GEORGIA 2015 AMERICA MIGOS
8. KUKERE AKWA IBOM 2012 NIGERIA IYANYA
9. ALKAYIDA ACCRA 2013 GHANA GURU
10. SKELEWU DAVIDO 2013 NIGERIA DAVIDO
11. SHOKI AGEGE, LAGOS 2014 NIGERIA LIL KESH
12. SOAPY NAIRA MARLEY 2019 NIGERIA NAIRA MARLEY


African American and African choreographers/dancers may be said to be the main innovators of dance culture across the globe and are therefore in the best position to benefit from copyrighting their unique Afropop and dancehall moves. This is a largely untapped means of revenue creation that can generate large incomes from performance, licensing deals and litigation, among others.

 

Thus, while dancers such as: Poco Lee, Okie, Zlatan, Naira Marley, Soulja Boy, Jaquel Knight and Stephen (papi) Ojo, among others, keep creating new dance moves that take the internet by storm and are constantly featured in music videos; they as pioneers’ performers ought to copyright and protect these personalized dance creations. For example, the choreographer, Jaquel Knight, secured the copyright for the dance steps which he created and was performed in the globally received son – “Single Ladies”, through reputable lawyer, David Hecht[9].

 

Jaquel Knight is well-known in the American entertainment industry for creating timeless choreographies for famous music videos made by the likes of Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and Rihanna, as well as creating choreography for performances at major physical and virtual live concerts (e.g., Coachella and the Superbowl). In a much-welcomed development, Mr Knight recently incorporated a company solely dedicated to Intellectual Property protection and licensing of dance moves and choreographies for creatives everywhere, becoming the first choreographer in the world to do so.[10]

 

In some jurisdictions (such as Nigeria), copyright protection typically arises once an original idea is put into a physical or material form. Such creations, including dances or choreographies, are however better protected if registered with the appropriate copyright registries (Nigerian Copyright Commission in Nigeria), utilizing the services of lawyers that are well-versed and experienced in the areas of intellectual property and entertainment law. This enables the law to effectively protect and enforce the exclusivity bestowed on the creators over their creative works.

 

In essence, this area of creativity is a gold-mine waiting to be exploited by the knowledgeable and quick-acting performers who know the worth of their efforts. Every creator is worthy of the recognition, income and protection that arises from their original work/creation. Intellectual property law serves the sole purpose of being the legal vehicle through which such enforcement or IP rights can be achieved. Therefore, it is in the best interests of performers and choreographers to seek out and engage the services of efficient legal practitioners or law firms within their jurisdictions and take the necessary steps to protect and profit from their creations.

 

This article was authored by Vanessa Obi, Esq; an Associate at Alliance Law Firm.

 

REFERENCES:

[1] Sam Loveridge and Ford James, ‘How Many People Play Fortnite? It’s A Lot And The Numbers Are Going Up | Gamesradar+’ (Gamesradar.com, 2021) <https://www.gamesradar.com/uk/how-many-people-play-fortnite/> accessed 22 May 2021.

[2] Michael Baggs, ‘Fortnite Sued Over The Floss: Can You Copyright A Dance Move?’ BBC NEWS (2018) <https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-46619052> accessed 19 May 2021.i

[3] COPYRIGHT ACT, CAP C28, LFN 2004.

[4] CAP T13, LFN 2004

[5] CAP P2, LFN 2004

[6] Section 26 (1)

[7] Section 26 (2)

[8] Section 27, COPYRIGHT ACT, CAP C28, LFN 2004

[9] Jazz Tangcay, ‘Beyonce Choreographer Launches Company To Copyright Dance Moves – Variety’ (Variety, 2021) <https://variety.com/2021/artisans/news/beyonce-choreographer-jaquel-knight-copyright-dance-moves-1234957578/#!> accessed 13 June 2021.

[10] Tonja Stidhum, ‘Can You Copyright Dance Moves? ‘Single Ladies’, ‘Formation’ And ‘WAP’ Choreographer Jaquel Knight Made History Doing Just That’ (The Root, 2021) <https://www.theroot.com/can-you-copyright-dance-moves-single-ladies-formation-1846747805> accessed 10 June 2021.

Notice of Company Meetings under Nigerian Law

By the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (CAMA), the notice required for the calling of a company meeting (general meeting), either Annual General Meeting or Extraordinary General Meeting, is to be given to all persons who are entitled to attend such meeting.

 

By the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (CAMA), the notice required for the calling of a company meeting (general meeting), either Annual General Meeting or Extraordinary General Meeting, is to be given to all persons who are entitled to attend such meeting.

Persons entitled to the notice of a company meeting:

CAMA lists the following as persons entitled to receive the notice of a company meeting:

 

  1. every member of the company (shareholders);
     
  2. every person upon whom the ownership of a share devolves by reason of his being a legal representative, receiver or a trustee in bankruptcy of a member;
     
  3. every director of the company;
     
  4. every auditor for the time being of the company;
     
  5. the company secretary; and
     
  6. the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in the case of public companies.

 

Length of notice:

The length of notice required for all types of company meetings is at least 21 days from the date on which the notice was sent out. A company meeting can however be called on a shorter notice if it is so agreed in the case of—

(a) a meeting called as the annual general meeting, by all the members entitled to attend and vote; and

(b) any other general meeting, by a majority in number of the members having a right to attend and vote at the meeting, being a majority together holding at least 95% in nominal value of the shares giving a right to attend and vote at the meeting or, in the case of a company not having a share capital, together representing at least 95% of the total voting rights at that meeting of all the members.

 

Content of notice:

The notice of a company meeting must specify the place, date and time of the meeting, and the general nature of the business to be transacted in sufficient detail to enable those to whom it is given to decide whether to attend or not, and where the meeting is to consider a special resolution, the notice should set out the terms of the proposed resolution. In the case of notice of an annual general meeting, a statement that the purpose is to transact the ordinary business of an annual general meeting is deemed to be a sufficient specification that the business is for the declaration of dividends, presentation of the financial statements, reports of the directors and auditors, the election of directors in the place of those retiring, fixing of the remuneration of the auditors, and, if the requirements of sections 409 and 410 of the Act are complied with, the removal and election of auditors and directors.

The law made it very clear that no business may be transacted at any general meeting unless notice of it has been duly given. Lastly, in every case in which a member is entitled to appoint a proxy(representative) to attend and vote instead of him, the notice of the meeting shall contain, a statement that a member has the right to appoint a proxy to attend and vote instead of him and that the proxy need not be a member of the company.

Medium of notice:

Notice of a company meeting may be given by the company to any member either personally or by sending it by post to him or to his registered address, or (if he has no registered address within Nigeria) to the address, supplied by him to the company for the giving of notice to him. Notice may be given by the company to the joint holders of a share by giving the notice to the joint holder first named in the register of members in respect of the share. Where a notice is sent by post, service of the notice is deemed to be effected by properly addressing, prepaying, and posting a letter containing the notice, and to have been effected in the case of a notice of a meeting at the expiration of seven days after the letter containing the same is posted, and in any other case at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.

In addition to the notice given personally or by post, notice may also be given by electronic mail to any member who has provided the company an electronic mail address. It must however be noted that the law defined “registered address” to mean any address whether physical or electronic supplied by a member to the company. Thus, if a member supplied his electronic mail address to the company as his registered address, notice via that electronic mail address will suffice as valid under the law without need for physical service.

Conclusion:

The company secretary must always ensure that the requirements of the law regarding the notice of a company meeting are complied with at all times. Failure to give notice of any company meeting to a person entitled to receive it invalidates the meeting unless such failure is an accidental omission on the part of the person giving the notice. An error or omission in a notice with respect to the place, date, time or general nature of the business of a meeting does not invalidate the meeting, unless the officer of the company responsible for the error or omission acted in bad faith or failed to exercise care and diligence provided that in the case of accidental error or omission, the officer responsible shall effect the necessary correction either before or during the meeting.

It is recommended that all mistakes regarding the notice of a company meeting should be avoided as much as possible, the general attitude of the courts in cases where there was failure to give proper notice of company meetings have generally been the annulment of such meetings, no matter how well conducted they were.