Dance and Music Rights


Welcome to Copyright for Performing Arts, which concerns copyright issues related mainly to contemporary dance and music.

Issues about the use of copyrighted material in staged dances, and dances on video (either documentary or “screen dance”) are generally complicated and difficult to understand. This is particularly true when dealing with the use of these materials within an academic institution, and quite particularly true when figuring out the right thing to do in a stage production of contemporary dance.

Many questions come quickly to the fore, such as:

  • When do I need to have permission to use a piece of music?
  • Whom do I contact to get permission, and how do I do it?
  • How much will this cost me?!
  • Will I get in trouble if I don’t get permission?!?
  • If I’m at a school, do I need copyright permission?

Other questions are not as obvious, but need to be answered:

  • What kinds of rights do I need?
  • Can I use a video of my performance for my portfolio?
  • Can I put my video on YouTube or Vimeo?

These are fairly complicated issues with murky answers. Unfortunately there are few easy answers to these questions for contemporary choreographers in an academic setting, or even in a commercial setting, for that matter.

This site is here to try to give you the resources to figure this all out. In subsequent posts I will try to explore individual questions and share stories that can shed some light on what to do, when. In the meantime, explore the wealth of information about copyright on the Dance and Music Rights Resources page on this site. Hopefully you can find your answers there—and become a copyright expert yourself in the process.

You can find Dance at Illinois copyright forms on the Forms Downloads page. To take a proactive approach to copyright, try looking at the Commissioning Music and Copyright Free Media pages.