The Carlton Not Elaborate Enough for Copyright Protection

By Stacey Dunn

The US Copyright Office has rejected “The Carlton” dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a choreographed routine worthy of copyright protection. While instantly recognizable for decades, the US Copyright Office says that The Carlton is merely a “simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work”. In coming to this conclusion, the Copyright Office detailed the dance in cringe-worthy detail, stating that the

dancer sways their hips as they step from side to side, while swinging their arms in an exaggerated manner. In the second dance step, the dancer takes two steps to each side while opening and closing their legs and their arms in unison. In the final step, the dancer’s feet are still and they lower one hand from above their head to the middle of their chest while fluttering their fingers.

Such detail may be required for a Copyright Office decision; but, of course, most know the dance:

https://giphy.com/explore/carlton-dance

The US Copyright Office’s refusal raises questions of copyright protection in Canada. Would The Carlton be protectable as a “choreographic work”, a subsection of “dramatic work”, under the Copyright Act? Unfortunately, the Copyright Act offers no guidance as to what may be covered, barely elaborating to define a choreographic work to include “any work of choreography, whether or not it has any story line”. A choregraphed dance that is fixated and original may be covered under the Copyright Act, but there is very little Canadian case law to elaborate on how complex a dance must be to constitute a choreographic work.

In FWS Joint Sports Claimants v. Canada (Copyright Board) ([1992] 1 FC 487), the Court held that playing a sports game cannot be a choreographic work “because, unlike a dance, a sporting event is for the most part a random series of events. The unpredictability of the action is inconsistent with the concept of choreography”. In Pastor v Chen (2002 BCPC 0169), a case where a dance instructor sued his former dance student for teaching the instructor’s version of a Cuban form of Salsa called “La Rueda”, the Court held that the “uniquely choreographed moves and dance styles” were covered by copyright. However, the dance was extremely complex, requiring a minimum of three couples and each move is done by a “call” from the leader. Furthermore, the instructor was successful on the basis of a breach of confidentiality agreement and the Court’s comments regarding copyright in the dance were merely in obiter.

The question remains as to how elaborate a dance must be to constitute a choreographic work in Canada; however, similarly to the US, something as simple as The Carlton may not warrant protection in Canada.

Brion Raffoul supports Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa at 2nd Annual Charity Skiathon at Camp Fortune

Natalie Raffoul as a Campaign Cabinet Member helped the 2nd Annual Charity Skiathon double its net proceeds for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa (BGCO).

The firm was also a proud Sponsor of the day and recruited other business leaders to join its ski team for a gorgeous day at Camp Fortune.

Over $150,000 was raised in one day(!) for the BGCO, an organization supporting Ottawa’s children and youth since 1923, by specializing in after school and weekend programs for kids aged 6 to 18.

To see some great local coverage of the event, please follow these links:

Ottawa Business Journal

Ottawa Citizen

Natalie Raffoul to attend the Licensing Executive Society International (LESI) Winter Planning Meeting as Co-Chair of the Education Committee

Brion Raffoul’s Managing Partner, Natalie Raffoul, will be attending the Licensing Executive Society International (LESI) Winter Planning Meeting in Miami from January 25-27, 2019. Ms. Raffoul is Co-Chair of the Education Committee. The Winter Planning Meeting provides an opportunity for the global LES leadership to meet and plan the year ahead for the society and also learn from intellectual property licensing industry experts. The LESI will meet again for its Annual Meeting in May in Yokohama, Japan. https://www.lesi.org/events/2019-winter-planning-meeting

Natalie Raffoul to attend the 1st Asia Pacific YMC LES International Meeting in Hong Kong

Ms. Raffoul will be attending the 1st Asia Pacific Licensing Executive Society International Young Members Congress Meeting in Hong Kong on November 30th, 2018. Ms. Raffoul will be leading a panel of distinguished international speakers to discuss the challenges around managing international intellectual property disputes.  Natalie will  bring her perspective on managing IP disputes for her own clients where you have enforcement or defence issues arising on patent assets outside of Canada, particularly in the US or Europe.  Ms. Raffoul has been successful in settling numerous international patent and design infringement disputes on behalf of her Canadian and foreign clients.  

Natalie Raffoul to attend the IPBC Global Asia Meeting in Shanghai

Ms. Raffoul will be attending the IPBC Global Asia in Shanghai, China from December 2nd to 4th, 2018. Brion Raffoul is a sponsor of the 2018 Asia IP Elite Gala Dinner for celebrating inductees into IAM’s Asia IP Elite.  Ms. Raffoul will be announcing the recipient of the Electronics Team of the Year, among a shortlist of companies: Canon, DJI, Hon Hai, Maxell, and Panasonic. Stay tuned for the winning team!