Dancers move to copyright choreography online
Future. Choreographer JaQuel Knight (Beyoncé, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion) and attorney David L. Hecht are stepping out how and why dances deserve copyright, showing that the TikTok era is redefining what is considered professional choreography. If they’re able to continue securing copyrights for creators and raise enough awareness in the industry, TikTok may one day create a feature that ensures the original choreographer is both recognized and compensated for the trends they start.
TikTok to cha-ching
JaQuel Knight and David Hecht first crossed paths when Knight was fighting to get the choreography to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” music video copyrighted, which he eventually got in 2020 — a rare victory.
- The two soon discovered that the same issue was happening to choreographers (mostly BIPOC ones) on TikTok, leaving choreographers like Jalaiah Harmon (the “Renegade” dance) without credit after their dances went viral.
- The issue was that copyrights for choreography are really only handed out to professional works that are “typically intended to be executed by skilled performers before an audience.”
- But that doesn’t really account for TikTok videos from amateur choreographers that go viral and then are renamed and repurposed by bigger media or gaming companies for profit.
So, Knight teamed up with tech company Logitech to secure copyrights for 10 BIPOC choreographers. That inaugural list of creators included The Nae Nae twins, who popularized the dance to Megan Thee Stallion’s remix of “Savage.”
No millions for 2 Milly
Meanwhile, Hecht started representing creators like 2 Milly (the rapper who created “The Milly Rock”), Alfonso Ribero (the actor from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air who popularized “The Carlton”), and Russell Horning (who created “The Floss”) after they were repurposed and renamed by Fortnite as emotes that players had to pay to use… without compensation or even acknowledgment to the creators that made them popular in the first place.
While some of those lawsuits, like 2 Milly’s, failed to move forward in court due to the archaic nature of copyright law, the lawsuits — which are working to show a tie between intellectual property and the “right of publicity” — are creating enough of a wave in the industry to hopefully change the law for a new generation of choreographers.