Are wedding receptions full of copyright infringers?February 6, 2007

Maybe, if you ask Richard Silver. Mr. Silver claims to have invented the dance known as the “Electric Slide” at a disco in 1976. He registered a copyright on his performance of the dance in 2004. While Mr. Silver’s claims may seem dubious (such as, for example, his claims on his website that he also invented break dancing and “the robot” dance), he has, thus far, been vigorous in using copyright law to defend what he perceives are his rights in the dance. For example, he entered into an agreement with Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo Productions, Inc., for the Electric Slide to be performed on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006. He has also attempted to get the Ellen DeGeneres Show to pay for a segment that aired in 2006 where Ellen and a group of dancers taught the Electric Slide to her class reunion. In addition to these, using the power of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Mr. Silver has sent takedown notices to YouTube, the popular video hosting site recently purchased by Google, requesting that all videos depicting the Electric Slide be taken down as infringing his copyright. Some whose videos were taken down have rehosted their videos elsewhere, and plan on fighting back against Mr. Silver. Regardless of the merits of Mr. Silver’s claims, his case shows the potential outer reaches of the DMCA, and, if Mr. Silver’s claims prove to be unfounded, the potential abuse of the DMCA by an individual with a copyright registration. Also, maybe stick to the Chicken Dance at the next wedding reception you attend. Update (11:10 am): As noted by Public Knowledge, the choreography may have passed into the public domain for failure to timely file the copyright registration. This is a possibility, depending on the facts surrounding the creation of the dance, and one more argument for those on the wrong end of a complaint by Mr. Silver.

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