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Who Owns the Renegade Dance?

Updated: May 9

It seems like every time you scroll on social media, you hear, “Cash on me, like I hit the Lottery”. Not only has the song become popular, but the dance attached to it has made it viral! So much so that it has officially become a part of my car dance routine, lol. (If you want to join in on the fun, there are so many videos to learn from on Instagram, Tik Tok, Youtube and Twitter).

As I was dancing, my legal brain began wondering. I thought about Jalaiah Harmon, the Original Creator of the Renegade. Click the video below to see her in action:


Song Featured: Lottery by K Camp, also known as, Renegade.

I started to wonder if Jalaiah’s dance could be copyrighted. Why copyright something you may ask? According to copyright.gov, “many people choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation”.

In simple words, copyright protection protects another person from copying your creative work and intellectual property. Having copyright protection allows ownership and control over your own work. You can determine who makes money from your work and who can have a license to use it.

In order for the Renegade dance to be copyrighted, it has to fall under the protection of The Copyright Act. Let’s see if the dance warrants protection.

Categories of Dances that ARE protected under The Copyright Act

The Copyright Act provides copyright protection in “pantomimes and choreographic works”. A choreographic work or pantomime typically contain one or more of the elements described below.

Common elements of choreography include:

• Rhythmic movements of one or more dancers’ bodies in a defined sequence and a defined spatial environment, such as a stage

• A series of dance movements or patterns organized into an integrated, coherent, and expressive compositional whole

• A story, theme, or abstract composition conveyed through movement

• A presentation before an audience

• A performance by skilled individuals

• Musical or textual accompaniment

Common elements of pantomime include:

• Direction of a performer’s movements, gestures, and facial expressions in a defined sequence and a defined special environment, such as a stage

• A related series of movements, gestures, and facial expressions organized into an integrated, coherent, and expressive compositional whole

• Silent action, performed without dialog, although sound effects or a musical accompaniment may accentuate the performer’s actions or complement the work as a whole

• A story, theme, or abstract composition conveyed through movement

• A presentation before an audience

Categories of Dances that ARE NOT protected under The Copyright Act

The Copyright Act does not protect some categories of dance and nondance movements, such as sports activities and performance art. Some examples are below.

Commonplace Movements or Gestures

Individual movements or dance steps by themselves are not copyrightable, such as the basic waltz step, the hustle step, the grapevine, or the second position in classical ballet. The U.S. Copyright Office cannot register short dance routines consisting of only a few movements or steps with minor linear or spatial variations, even if a routine is novel or distinctive.

Examples of commonplace movements or gestures that do not qualify for registration as choreographic works or pantomimes include:

• A set of movements whereby a group of people spell out letters with their arms

• Yoga positions

• A celebratory end zone dance move or athletic victory gesture

Social Dances

For copyright purposes, choreographic works are a subset of dance and are not synonymous with dance. Social dances, simple routines, and other uncopyrightable movements cannot be registered as separate and distinct works of authorship, even if they contain a substantial amount of creative expression.

Examples of social dances not protected by copyright include:

• Ballroom dances

• Folk dances

• Line dances

• Square dances

• Swing dances

Ordinary Motor Activities and Athletic Movements

Functional physical movements, feats of physical skill or dexterity, and ordinary motor activities—in and of themselves—are not eligible for registration as choreography.

Examples of ordinary motor activities not registrable as choreographic works or pantomimes include:

• General exercise routines

• Athletic activities, such as a new tennis swing, a golf swing, or a unique slam-dunk maneuver

• Feats of physical skill or dexterity

• Skateboarding or snowboarding tricks

• Yoga poses and sequences

• A compilation of any of the above types of movements

So the final question is: Can the Renegade dance be protected by copyright? In my opinion, there is a strong argument that the Renegade would fall under choreography and can ultimately be protected by the Copyright Act. What do you think? Meet me in the comments below!