The Copyright Act lists “choreographic works” as one of the eight types of creative works that are protectable under federal copyright law (17 U.S.C. Section 102(a)(4)). However, the Act itself does not define “choreographic works” and thus far, there has been surprisingly little case law discussing the scope of what can or cannot be protected. A recent Ninth Circuit case, Hanagami v. Epic Games, Inc., took a stab at addressing this question and ultimately provided some helpful guidance.
The Supreme Court recently denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in a much-watched copyright case, leaving in place a March 2020 Ninth Circuit en banc opinion that cleared Led Zeppelin of allegations that the beginning of “Stairway to Heaven” infringed “Taurus,” written by Randy Wolfe and performed by the band Spirit. The Court’s denial leaves undisturbed the Ninth Circuit’s decision concerning the scope of the relevant copyright under the 1909 Copyright Act and the status of the inverse ratio rule in the Ninth Circuit.
The U.S. Copyright Office announced a Final Rule setting forth a new registration procedure allowing copyright applicants the option to register groups of short online literary works with a single application and single filing fee. This option, which is expected to be available in August 2020, should offer substantial cost savings to prolific authors, bloggers and other online content creators seeking to protect their creative output. Group Registration of Short Online Literary Works, 85 Fed. Reg. 37,341 (June 22, 2020) (revising 37 C.F.R. § 202.4).