ReFresH Dance

David Moore – “Pocket Aces”

So, for those of you who don’t know who dmoore is, he’s another sick choreographer from LA. He’s worked with tons of great choreographers, artists, and producers, and has some of the craziest videos on all of youtube. He’s been out here to the Chi to teach a few classes, and I was lucky enough to be around last summer when he taught to “You” by Chris Brown.

Anyhow, he put up a sick video about a month ago called “pocket aces”. In it was one of his sickest routines, complete with a setting/backstory and his signature epic introductions to the videos. Unfortunately, it was tagged by youtube as part of their ongoing “audio track not authorized” track. Finally, it’s back, and I think it’s definitely worth watching.

What was posted on youtube:

The full video:

I’d also like to use this as a springboard for some discussion about youtube’s policy. This is going to be somewhat long and drawn-out, and is certainly not relevant to everyone who visits this page. In short, the rest of this post is dedicated to discussing how youtube’s policy of removing audio tracks from all videos that have music that is identified by their software to be copyrighted material. Facebook, vimeo, and viddler all have their own mechanisms of dealing with it, but I am using youtube as the primary focus because it is the medium that I have the most experience with, and certainly has the highest market share, if you will, of online video streaming.

While I can understand the major labels’ motivation for taking action against people who use youtube to post music/music videos that they do not own, I believe that from the perspective of choreographers posting their own work on youtube, the labels have made a major error in taking action for the audio tracks of the video.

Now, wikipedia cites the principle of “fair use” from U.S. copyright law as defined by these four principles:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

I believe that choreographers who use songs to create their work have added substantial value to the song beyond simply using a song as background music for a random video. Oftentimes, a choreographer’s work is tied closely to the song that was used, rendering a piece/combo nearly useless without the audio track.

So let’s examine those four principles of fair use. The purpose of the use of the audio track may indeed be commercial, such as when choreographers submit reels of their work to producers, directors, or indeed even artists in attempt to land jobs. However, I believe that the nature of this usage is tied directly to the dance industry, and is not something unique to youtube or other online video sites. As previously mentioned, a piece of choreography without the accompanying music is essentially useless, but that is exactly what youtube’s specific approach to this dilemma has been. So then what sort of solution could be found to permit choreographers to share the entirety of their work? Are the labels going to charge royalties to the choreographers for using the audio track on youtube? Practical difficulties aside, what then would stop them charging royalties for classes or workshops that play music? I contend that this approach would be detrimental both to the recording industry and the dance community.

In relation to the first and fourth principles, it is very true that choreographers can post their pieces on youtube to promote themselves for commercial work. However, I don’t believe that they are resulting in an unreasonable detriment to the intellectual/artistic value of the audio track. If anything, I myself have a number of times immediately gone to AmazonMP3 to buy a song from a video that just struck me. Even further, I personally find myself preferentially listening to songs that I tie to a specific video/routine, and find myself buying other songs or even complete albums by the same artist, just because a choreographer made a piece that completely blew me away.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t believe that youtube should just throw the doors wide open and remove the disable audio feature entirely. I have seen plenty of youtube videos where there is no video, only the audio track. The video could be at best simply blank, but there are plenty of them that spam with links and pop-in bubbles trying to get you to buy a ringtone, or subscribe to some service. These types of infringement need to be regulated, as they are detrimental to the industry (I doubt many of them pay proper royalties to the labels, and therefore to the artists themselves) as well as to the consumer (I personally find those videos to be irritating, low-quality, and generally useless for what I was trying to accomplish by looking up that song on youtube).

I don’t agree with youtube’s current approach of allowing users to “Audio Sync” the track in exchange for allowing a link to iTunes/AmazonMP3 to appear on the video. The feature is time-consuming, clunky, and indeed not utilized by most users in the situation. It is far easier to upload the video to another site or alter the audio and reupload to youtube, rather than struggle through trying to set up the audio through Audio Sync. Since choreography is so rhythmically dependent, it is even more important that the audio track be perfectly synced to the video track.

What I would suggest generally as good steps would be for youtube to have some kind of approval process, where artists of any kind who would like to use copyrighted audio for work such as a choreography piece will have the iTunes/AmazonMP3 popup in the bottom of their screen. Personally, I would find that immensely useful as a direct link to getting the song, instead of needing to delve through the sidebar info or the comments to try and find a track title, and then searching Amazon or iTunes manually to find the song. I understand that this is a naive perspective that would be rather impractical to implement, but perhaps this idea may provide a jumping off point for a truly practical solution to be found.

Again, I don’t have a solution. I realize there is a lot that I haven’t covered here, and I consider this post to be a sort of work-in-progress. I will be soliciting feedback so that I can expand and improve upon this, hopefully to the point where this can be of some use to the community. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have comments regarding this. This will be regularly updated on my google docs, and I’ll try to keep it up-to-date on this site as well.

Relevant info:

[DISCLAIMER] I have no experience in copyright law. I have minimal experience in the dance industry, being more of an avid fan and a passionate hobbyist than an actual member of the industry. I wrote this because I feel like through this issue, everyone from the consumer to the artist to the labels is suffering. Please feel free to distribute this to whomever you like, but keep these last few bits so that any feedback can make its way back to me.


July 26, 2009 - Posted by | Community, Other


  1. Saying this defies every fiber in my being, but the breakdancer was my favorite; his split-get-up was jizzworthy. Now, to address the article…

    First, I shall presuppose that YouTube removes either the audio or the entire video if the material in question fails at any one of the cited principles of fair use. The logic is simple: Any material that fails to adhere to any of these principles ceases to be “fairly used” material, and is thus subject to summary removal.

    That said, all of the principles are equivocal and subject to the whim of the interpreting enforcer. Technically speaking then, any video with an infinitesimally small representation or exposition of anything copyrighted could be viewed as copyright infringement, since the principles fail to provide quantitative, or even qualitative, guidelines outlining what constitutes a “substantial” portion. Although only the most stringent scrooge would extend the rule to such extremes, on its own, I do not find the rule objectionable. What becomes morally problematic is YouTube’s application of the fair-use rule in conjunction with its failure to provide a framework detailing precisely what is permissible to upload. Further, in its attempt to impose the fair-use, YouTube has set up an impressive historical record of inconsistency. That is to say, YouTube selectively removes copyrighted audio from videos in the case of David Moore’s video, but fails to recognize those who upload copyrighted video with their own audio as violators, as is the case for something like They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. Seeing as I find it immoral for someone to castigate another for breaking an ill-conceived law further kept under hushed tones, so too do I deem YouTube’s behavior reprehensible. Until such a time exists when YouTube quantitatively underlines what material is legally permissible to upload, and consistently upholds itself to that codified standard, I cannot support YouTube’s action against David Moore’s video.

    Comment by 2chix1cup | July 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. Of all the video sites, Youtube is probably the most well known and as such, gets the most hits, highest traffic, etc. It seems they have the attitude of, well, we can do whatever we want, but say we have these rules and guidelines to justify it. Like Travis was saying, it’s quite inconsistent. Not that I’d like to see all the copyrighted material pulled because then we’d lose a lot haha, but it makes me wonder how Youtube chooses which videos to flag and which ones to keep. Like Matt, I’ve seen a lot of those stupid advertisement ringtone videos when I’m trying to find something legit and I think those have less legitimacy using the songs than someone who takes it and makes something promoting the song.

    I don’t know if this is possible, but if it indeed becomes a big problem, perhaps the dance community as a whole can take their stuff to another video site. I think if Youtube sees that it’s pissed off a huge group, they’ll change their policies. Again though, it’s a huge undertaking and the problem doesn’t seem to be extremely rampant. Also, I’m always a fan of grass roots movements even in this age of technology haha.

    Comment by dreamstatecheung | August 8, 2009 | Reply

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