About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

96 Wash. L. Rev. 1225 (2021)
Copyrighting TikTok Dances: Choreography in the Internet Age

handle is hein.journals/washlr96 and id is 1247 raw text is: COPYRIGHTING TIKTOK DANCES: CHOREOGRAPHY
Ali Johnson*
Abstract: TikTok is a video-sharing social media application that launched in 2018 and has
grown wildly since its inception. Many users are drawn to the platform by dance
challenges-short dance routines ofvarying complexity set to popular songs that are recreated
by other users, eventually going viral (i.e., recreated on a massive scale by other users) on
the app. Going viral can provide young dancers and choreographers an opportunity to break
into the highly competitive entertainment industry. However, there is a problem: due to
TikTok's interface and community practices, the original creators of a dance (who,
significantly, are often young women of color) frequently do not receive credit, or the massive
opportunities that come with such recognition. This Comment explores how intellectual
property law may provide a framework to address this problem, while simultaneously
acknowledging the troubled history between copyright and creators of color. It also situates
the TikTok problem within a larger phenomenon: choreography is an increasingly important
part of pop culture as video cements itself as the dominant communicative medium of the era.
Accordingly, the challenges of asserting intellectual property rights over choreography (which
have historically gone unsought and ignored) is a legal problem that will require renewed
Part I of this Comment describes the global ascent of TikTok as a platform for sharing
choreography, and how the app serves as a touchpoint for a bigger story of cultural
appropriation in the United States. Part II discusses copyright law and choreography, focusing
on the required features a piece of choreography must have to be entitled to copyright
protection, and the increasing importance of copyright protection for choreography in the
internet age. Part III addresses the recent litigation between a popular video game, Fortnite,
and a cadre of celebrities who claim the game copied their signature dance moves without
compensation. Specifically, this Part investigates how the outcomes of those cases inform
analysis for legal protection of TikTok dances. Part IV argues that under the current copyright
regime, many TikTok dances likely qualify for copyright protection. However, given the
importance of widespread dissemination to the success of TikTok dances, copyright
protection-which would inevitably have a chilling effect on a dance's dissemination-may
not pave the appropriate path forward. This Part also presents potential solutions. These
potential solutions include licensing schemes, as well as extralegal fixes TikTok could employ
to meet the dual goals of allowing dissemination while simultaneously protecting the
attribution rights of choreographers.
In February 2020, a twenty second dance routine called the
*J.D. Candidate, University of Washington School ofLaw, Class of 2022. Special thanks to Professor
Steve Tapia for sharing his wisdom and knowledge with me from the early stages of this process
through final publication, as well as my colleagues at Washington Law Review for their invaluable
guidance and hard work in preparing this Comment for publication.


What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing thousands of academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline.

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most