The copyright buzz from the 'Electric Slide'

Richard Silver explains what all the fuss was about over online videos of the 1970s line dance he created.

The "Electric Slide" now has a Creative Commons license. Just how the iconic line dance came to be governed by that Internet-friendly license starts with a video of a software engineer and his friends having a go at the '70s moves.

In February, Richard Silver, the creator of the dance, persuaded YouTube to remove the video, which the San Francisco engineer shot at a recent convention.

Shocked by the takedown notice by Silver--which was based on a Digital Millennium Copyright Act claim--the engineer, Kyle Machulis, turned to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which quickly adopted his cause.

The argument: that the video contained nothing but noncommercial footage of the dance moves, and should therefore be fair use. The EFF quickly filed a lawsuit against Silver on Machulis' behalf.

And while experts said that it's possible to copyright choreography, few thought Silver could prevail in cases of noncommercial use.

On May 22, Silver and the EFF : the EFF agreed to drop its lawsuit, and in return, Silver said he would no longer pursue DMCA claims against anyone portraying his dance steps in a noncommercial manner.

I still have a problem with people doing my choreography incorrectly, but we're working through that and I now have a great lawyer who's helping me control this.
--Richard Silver, Electric Slide creator

Further, the parties agreed that from that point on, the Electric Slide would be protected under a Creative Commons license granting full noncommercial use rights to anyone wanting to shoot and post video of the dance.

Earlier this week, Silver gave a telephone interview to CNET His New York attorney, Mark Beigelman, whom he had retained to help with the EFF lawsuit and who seems to have helped Silver understand that he would likely lose in court, unexpectedly insisted on participating in the interview, often stepping in for Silver on responses.

During the interview, the two talked about Silver's position on public use of his choreography, the reasons he got YouTube to remove Machulis' and others' videos and which stars have done the dance the right way on the silver screen.

Q: What's your take on the settlement with the EFF?
Mark Beigelman: We're thrilled with it. It really conforms to everything that Rick has been trying to do with this. It relates purely for noncommercial use, which Rick has never had a problem with. The EFF lawsuit was somewhat of a surprise to him in light of the fact that the only thing he did to try to police it with regard to noncommercial use was with regard to the way the dance was actually done.

Richard Silver: Yeah, my choreography was 22 steps because my birthday is January 22. I wanted something that was uniquely mine, and so I created a dance with 22 steps. And the dances that are being portrayed on YouTube and MySpace and wherever are doing an 18-step dance instead of a 22-step dance. I fought for the last 28 years trying to get it not done as an 18-step dance, and now with all this being presented on the Internet, I had a problem with it.

What did you feel was the harm of this being caught on video at a convention and posted noncommercially on YouTube?
Silver: The only harm is that choreography is being presented incorrectly. By people watching it and learning it from them incorrectly. And prolonging what I've been fighting for for the last 30 years since I created the dance. Every night that I taught the dance I had a dream that someone was going to leave my class and teach it incorrectly and it was going to go around the world incorrectly and I was going to spend the rest of my life trying to correct it. And that is exactly what has happened.

Why do people get it wrong?
Silver: Because of places like (line-dance Web site) Kickit and line dance videos that have been presented by Diane Horner and a few other people that presented it as an 18-step dance without my permission. They posted it to the Internet and made line dance videos and sold them with the incorrect choreography.

And they called it the Electric Slide?
Silver: Yes.

What was your reaction when you found out the EFF was filing a lawsuit?
Silver: I was shocked. I couldn't understand why they would even be involved in this. I had gone on YouTube and found a number of people who were putting up notices where they were teaching line dancing. I noticed that there were some videos of dance classes where a teacher had a bunch of students and was teaching the dance incorrectly and eventually I just went through and (got YouTube) to pull them all off.

Beigelman: Rick is not a lawyer. He is a choreographer artist and his objection from day one was not just use of the dance. I think it was misinterpreted by many that his objection was to (any use of) the actual dance. But if it was done properly, if it was done with 22 steps, he had no objection.

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