» » » Q&A: Intellectual Property and Students Teaching

Q&A: Intellectual Property and Students Teaching

posted in: questions, Teaching | 0

Q. “I was hoping for input from someone who’s developed their own [tribal improv] method and the “proprietary” nature of the material.

I have students with their own performing group here in town, but up to now, the group improv format we do in class is off limits unless you’re performing with [us], so they don’t use it or teach it in their group.

They do, however like to use my choreographies & adapt my choreographies for their performances, & that’s OK –

But I know that when we release the [troupe] format on DVD they’ll be all over it. I know they’ll ask me about using it when it comes out. I’m too close to tell how I feel about it. I don’t want to make any blanket statements on it one way or the other (Yes, use it; No, don’t use it) based on *nothing*.

Do I try for some kind of ‘non-compete clause’ within a certain territory? or just let it be a free-for-all? I just want some input from someone who’s been there or seen it, an objective perspective.”

A. “In general, my opinion is that once you put out a video, you’re putting it out there for the world to do with as they please. Yes, you can hope they will do it justice if they perform it, you hope they will give credit as appropriate; but ultimately, you are letting the djinn out of the bottle and you can’t truly control it once it is out. If you don’t want your material used, then don’t make a video. In fact, don’t perform at all if you don’t want your material scooped, because it WILL be used in some capacity! As artists, we can hope for people to be more creative and respectful, but sometimes people will outright take your work (not be “inspired by it” or “moved to try something similar, but take it wholesale) and we have to learn to breathe deeply and be zen about it. It does and will happen. From within our own student circles and without. It can be frustrating, it can even hurt our egos, but it is a reality. I have run into it many times, and I lived to teach another day. ­čÖé

As for your students, we have a non-compete clause that says that you cannot teach our material without express permission from the director, and you are not to use any unique troupe combos or concepts or costuming elements outside of the troupe. This is to keep us from shooting ourselves in the foot–we don’t want to be a competition to ourselves for gigs and workshops. So we agree for the good of the collective that we won’t set up any competition of any kind. That is of course only “binding” so long as they are in the troupe. Once they leave us and strike out on their own and if they continue to dance and/or teach, we ask, and can *hope*, that they won’t try to bank on the troupe’s work explicitly, and our contract states that they should not take troupe-specific concepts, choreographies, etc and use them once they leave, but again…we can’t truly force them one way or another. So you have to breathe deeply and be zen about it…you know the routine. ­čÖé

For students, I don’t feel I have any right to tell them they can use this or can’t use that. After all, why are they coming to me to learn? To get information they can USE of course! I encourage them to use what I share with them, and I also encourage them to create their own ideas and run with them, allowing my ideas and knowledge to be a springboard, not a crutch. I am proud when I see students of mine in their own troupes using concepts I know they learned from me or creating concepts based on what I have shared with them. It means I did my job!

In my opinion, in a troupe it is like an employee-employer relationship, where we have intellectual property that belongs to the troupe and is not for general consumption. For students, it is a customer-vendor relationship. And what I teach them in class is for them to use freely as they see fit.

To compare:

Employee/Employer Relationship: when a clothing designer develops a pattern/design in-house, and a design employee leaves, they are not allowed to go out and start selling that exact same clothing under their own label. (There are knock-offs that come from just such a relationship though, yes? And legally, there is little to be done about that, unfortunately.)

Customer/Vendor Relationship: when a clothing company sells me a shirt and pants, I can wear it any way I want, cut it up and make it into new garments, gift it to a friend, stuff it and make a scarecrow out of it, and generally use it for my own purposes.

Now don’t get too caught up in the minutiae of that argument. Yes yes, there are copyright laws and safeguards in place which address these issues and blah blah blah. But on the surface, hopefully this comparison makes sense. And ultimately, we are talking about a living breathing art, not a shirt on a hanger, right?

Follow Shay:

Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

Leave a Reply