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1.6: Copyright

Several people have asked me about the issue of copyright and this collection of cheat sheets. The first thing that I should say is that I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Despite this, I still have to worry about copyright, and the ethical issues related to copyright. My only experience is with copyright laws in the USA; other countries probably are different.

Copyright in academic research is a bit different from copyright in performance arts. In academia, it is considered permissible and ethical to use the contents the work of other people, as long as you give appropriate credit, and do not make a direct quote of too much of the document in question. In this arena, the notion of fair use is quite broad.

In performance arts, the notion of fair use is much more limited. It is possible to publish music, and deny others the ability to perform said music, or a part of it, for pay. In the historical dance world, the thing that is protected is the intellectual work of reconstructing a dance. Is it illegal to teach (without permission) a copyrighted reconstruction at an SCA event which charges an entrance fee? Probably, if the reconstruction is unique. But if the reconstruction is sufficiently ``obvious,'' then it can't be copyrighted; all that could be copyrighted in that case is a particular description of the reconstruction of a dance.

When publishing dance cheat sheets, my main copyright concern is that I do not publish non-obvious copyrighted reconstructions without permission, and that I give credit for reconstructions whenever possible. Unfortunately, I (and many others) have learned most of these dances as folk dance, so I have no idea who did the reconstructions. While the reconstruction of many English Country and Arbeau dances is pretty easy, and thus probably not a worry, a few, such as Arbeau's Horses Bransle, aren't that obvious. But, even in that case, the main thing which is in question is the starting position of the dancers: a small part of the reconstruction. And there are only a few possibilities. So I do not believe that I am tangling with the law over Arbeau and English Country Dances, but I should be willing to give credit to the folks who happened upon useful reconstructions first.

My main worry, then, is over more complicated dances such as 15th century Italian basse dances. For these dances, I will attempt to restrict myself to only publishing reconstructions invented by people who give me permission. While these reconstructions invariably will resemble published reconstructions --- after all, they generally come from the same primary document(s) --- I believe that I will be able to fulfill both the letter and intent of the law. And, finally, I hope to accumulate a bibliography for each dance, so that credit may be given to everyone who has worked on reconstructing it.

Finally, you may wonder what kind of copyright I assert on this collection of cheat sheets itself. Any material provided by other authors is still copyright by them. Anything else I have typed is copyright by me. However, you should feel free to download this document from the Internet, view it, print it, photocopy more copies, give them to your friends and enemies, and so forth. My only request is that if you do charge money, that you not charge more than your cost of copying and distribution --- my aim is to educate, not profit myself or anyone else materially.