Performance arts and copyrights

Glenn W. Peterson

If a person has something that he or she wants to register the copyright for in California, then it is important that he or she chooses the correct category to file under. Performance arts, as defined by the U.S. Copyright Office, is one option that a person has if the piece is something intended to be performed for an audience. There is a range of different pieces that could fall under this category, including dances, podcasts, screenplays, dramatic readings, sound effects, audiobooks and comedy routines.

Some of the different pieces that could be classified as performing arts may also fall under other categories. In order for a person to determine if a piece is right for this category, it is important to note the Copyright Act’s official definition, which states that it must be acted, rendered, recited, danced or played for an audience.

A person wanting to file for a performing arts copyright must file Form PA. There is often confusion between filing something as performing arts or a sound recording. One distinction is for soundtracks for movies. These are considered a part of the movie and therefore are performing arts. Another example is dramatic acts or musical compositions that are recorded would be a performing art and not a sound recording.

To prevent confusion, people should look at the intention of the piece. If it is the actual performance of the piece that is being copyrighted, then it is almost always going to be categorized as a performing arts copyright.