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Copyright and dramatic works

Written by Owen Ross on 10 July 2012

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Under section 3(1) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 a dramatic work includes a work of dance or mime.

A screen play for a television program, a script for a play or a choreographed dance routine that have been recorded all fall into the category of dramatic works.

A dramatic work is a work of action, with or without words or music which is capable of performance.

However, there are works which are capable of being performed which do not fall into the category of a dramatic work. For example, a poem would be protected as a literary work and not a dramatic work as it is not a work of action even though be reciting the poem it is a form of performance.

In the case of Norowzian v Arks Ltd (No.2) [2000] FSR 363, it was held that a film can constitute a dramatic work rather than a recording of a dramatic work, if it is a work of action capable of being performed

In the case of Nova Productions Limited v Bell Fruit Games Limited [2006] EWHC 24 (Ch) the requirement that a dramatic work be a work of action capable of being performed was also applied. However, the court held that a computer game could not be a dramatic work as a computer game depends on the manner in which it is played and the features relied on were too to be described as features of a dramatic work or to be capable of performance.

It is not clear whether television show formats could be protected by copyright as dramatic works.
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