February 3, 2007 6:00 AM PST

'Electric Slide' on slippery DMCA slope

'Electric Slide' on slippery DMCA slope The inventor of the "Electric Slide," an iconic dance created in 1976, is fighting back against what he believes are copyright violations and, more important, examples of bad dancing.

Kyle Machulis, an engineer at San Francisco's Linden Lab, said he received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice about a video he had shot at a recent convention showing three people doing the Electric Slide.

"The creator of the Electric Slide claims to hold a copyright on the dance and is DMCAing every single video on YouTube" that references the dance, Machulis said. He's also sent licensing demands to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Machulis added.

Indeed, Richard Silver, who filed the copyright for the Electric Slide in 2004, said on one of his Web pages that the DeGeneres Show had been putting up a legal fight as he tried to get compensation for a segment that aired in February 2006 in which actress Teri Hatcher and other dancers performed the popular wedding shuffle.

"You can copyright the choreography for dances and then enforce the copyright against anyone who publicly performs the dance."
--Jason Schultz, attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

The 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act governs copyright infringement as well as technology whose purpose is to circumvent measures intended to protect copyrights. Under the DMCA, rights-holders can complain to services like YouTube that content uploaded by users infringes their copyrights.

Silver did not respond to an e-mail sent Friday asking for comment and did not answer several phone calls to his Groton, Conn., home. A representative for the DeGeneres Show declined to comment.

But on the YouTube page Silver himself posted showing the Electric Slide, he wrote, "Any video that shows my choreography being done incorrectly is being removed. I don't want future generations having to learn it wrong and then relearn it as I am being faced with now because of certain sites and (people) that have been teaching it incorrectly and without my permission. That's the reason I (copyrighted) it in the first place."

YouTube has been dealing with a slew of DMCA takedown claims recently. Viacom on Friday demanded the service remove a hundred thousand videos it claimed infringed its copyrights.

Some may find it odd that a dance could be copyrightable, of course. But according to Jason Schultz, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, dance moves can definitely be protected under copyright law.

"You can copyright the choreography for dances," said Schultz, "and then enforce the copyright against anyone who publicly performs the dance."

Does that mean that everyone who giggles their way through the Electric Slide with the wedding videographer shooting away is violating copyright? No, but the videographer could be at risk. But Schultz said he believes Silver's claims against Machulis and others who have posted videos on YouTube may be questionable.

"Someone who performs it noncommercially or adds their own artistic flair to the dance has a pretty good fair-use argument that their performance is noninfringing," Schultz said.

Because there are only about 20 seconds of actual footage of people doing the Electric Slide out of Machulis' nearly five-minute video, Silver's claim may be on shaky ground, Schultz said.

"Here, it's such a small piece of the video, and such a small piece of the dance (that) I think if (Silver brought) a copyright lawsuit, he would lose," he said.

Joe Pesci, Electric Slide master
Machulis, who has reposted his video on another online site, said he is considering a counterclaim on the theory that Silver's copyright applies only to a videotape of his original tutorial of the dance. But Schultz said the format isn't a concern in this case.

A blogger named Rob Lathan also recently said he got a DMCA takedown notice from YouTube.

Lathan had posted a video of himself dancing the Electric Slide on stilts on NBC's Today Show. Now, he said on his blog, his video had been removed by YouTube after a complaint by Silver. But Lathan seemed nonplussed by Silver's complaint.

"I'm gonna fight him with everything I've got," he wrote. "And you know what that is, right? My trusty pair of shiny red stilts."

It appears Silver has for several years aggressively defended his copyright on the dance. In 2004, Silver apparently wrote an e-mail to Donna Woolard, an associate professor of exercise science at North Carolina's Campbell University, demanding she remove a video of the dance from a Web site. He complained the dance wasn't being done correctly on the video, and Woolard took down the video.

Silver wrote, according to e-mail correspondence posted by Woolard, that he had sued two Hollywood production companies for using the dance in several films and that he was now adding her as a co-defendant. It's unclear what happened to the suit.

Interestingly, he also complained that actors in those movies also didn't do the dance right. In fact, of several movies mentioned, surprisingly, Silver said only Joe Pesci, best known for his Oscar-winning role in the gangster classic Goodfellas, performed the dance correctly in the decidedly lesser-known film, The Super.

"I realize that this incorrect version of my choreography has been around for some 27 years," Silver wrote, "and it seems pointless to try and correct it at this time but because of the legal ramifications, my lawyers have suggested that I take this approach."

So does doing the Electric Slide badly protect you from charges of copyright violation? To Schultz, an incorrect version of the dance may still be covered under copyright law as a derivative of the original, but it depends on the context. In the case of Machulis' video, the missteps of the dance probably mean a loss of Silver's rights.

"Slight variations (of the original) are arguably derivative," said Schultz, "but something else, like doing (a dance) out of sequence, you're probably not even getting close to his copyright."

See more CNET content tagged:
dance, DMCA, YouTube, claim, attorney

75 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
electric gomer
Some people have nothing better to do with their lives I guess... A
silly waste of litigation... If he's so upset about his dance being
done wrong, maybe he should start producing a dance video
showing people how to do the electric slide properly. Then maybe
he'd stop listening to lawyers and filing goofy lawsuits.
Posted by anti-wireless-dude (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This may be the end of the DMCA!
Not the YMCA (I wish it was the end) but a law suit like this brings out the silliness of a very silly law.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hope so!
My company produces software that is protected by a key card in the server. We don't run around suing everyone that has a screen that may look like one of ours. You can just protect some items so far and then it becomes an exercise in the absurd.

Next you'll have IBM suing everyone who wears a white shirt.
Posted by a155mm (7 comments )
Link Flag
Excellent. Let this frivolous suit demonstrate...
just how frivolous this legislation is. I think every jackass out there should use this legislation to protect his worthless intellectual property and bog down the courts to the detriment of the sleazy lobbyists who got it passed in the first place.
Posted by jp10293847 (25 comments )
Link Flag
a joke
Im waiting for someone to start suing over he said she said. Geo W sure has made a mess of things
Posted by darrenretro (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But not as messy as your fuzzy head
George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the 43rd and current
President of the United States, inaugurated on January 20, 2001.
Per EFF.ORG "On October 28, 2000 the controversial Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) took full effect, criminalizing the
act of circumvention of a technological protection system put in
place by a copyright holder -- even if one has a fair use right to
access that information.
Gee, care to guess who was president in 2000?
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
The DMCA is working
Although Ric Silver's claims seem ridiculous to me, his method shows how the DMCA is working on the democratic web. Using limited legal resources in the framework, this copyright holder is on the same level as who he opposes. At this early stage, the parties can agree with limited harm or disagree and choose to escalate it to litigation. This buffer protects the innocent against 'junk' lawsuits without wasting taxpayer money.
Posted by Andrew Pingrey (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wrong
THis is just an example of somebody with no legal claim wasting people time and money. The DMCA is about protecting the money of Bush's friends. The fact that they did no useful work isn't important all thats important is that you officially joined "THE CLUB" and need protection from that unsavory,scummy mob called voters. In this case the person appears to be just looking for his "15 min." (or possibly just pointing out how stupid this particular law is), The real person who gets protection (just an example) from this law is the "upper class twit" from American Idol who having discovered he has no real ability seems have decided to use the law to steal from people with talent.
One of the main principles of western civilization is to provide an even playing field for every one. The DMCA is about giving the "800 lb gorilla" a machine gun to help him while he gets "anything he wants".
Posted by mpotter28 (130 comments )
Link Flag
Get a life Gezz
Get a life I mean come on stop trying to profit
Posted by kyle172 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get a life Gezz
Get a life I mean come on stop trying to profit
Posted by kyle172 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What the...?
Is this guy serious?! Just when you think you've read, and seen (thanks to YouTube) it all, something like this comes along. This guy is either hard up for some cash or he has way too much spare time on his hands. GET A LIFE, DUDE!

The DMCA and idiots: it's a dangerous combination!
Posted by anomalator (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Disco?
Dude, disco is DEAD!
Electric Slide? WHO CARES!
Posted by HarleyD50 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cash
It's for the CASH...
Posted by HarleyD50 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What's Next?
What's next? The Macarena? The chicken dance?
Oh the humanity!1
Posted by deejai58 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How About...
How about no more dancing, singing, playing music, or listening to music without a permit? (Whistling in the dark included) Violators will be punished to the full extent of the law. I'm sure some company out there is working to quantify the concept of 'fun'. Fun will be copyrighted. Anybody caught having fun (having or expressing feelings and emotions that are within the patented parameters) without paying will be cited for infringement.

What is life about anymore anyways?
Posted by troppp (58 comments )
Link Flag
Curious to know??
I want to know when he applied for a copywrite. This dance has been in existance for at least 40 years. His copywrite probably should have been denied because it was already in common public use status when he filed for the copywrite. If he wins I'm filing of copywrite status of the word "news" and for the color "red".
Posted by lord vegas (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks Mr. I have to spoil everyone's fun!
Is this getting a bit out of control (yes!) or does this guy have so
much passion to copyright a dance no one knows the correct
moves? Hold on, there's a correct way to do that dance? I
wouldn't know, I usually have a pretty good buzz on by the time
that song plays or looking for a restroom like every other guy
who doesn't want to get dragged onto the dance floor by there
girlfriend or wife.

Which brings up a question which came first the song or the
dance? If the song came first did he pay the copyright holder any
royalties for inspiring him to put a dance? I hope he paid the
song's copyright holder...

The only people who will be happy will be the lawyers and any
male who now has a good excuse not to get dragged on the
dance floor, "sorry honey, they're video tapping I don't want to
get sued if this ends up on the web"
Posted by jjlnva (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Are u friggin kidding me...?!?
Who in their right mind allowed a dance to be copyrighted?
Dancing goes back to the Stone Age. Since fellow man walked
upright.

I'm waiting for the day when God (or the God's) come down and
lecture us about what's really important in life.

A message to Silver, "Take a little trip to the middle east and get a
REALITY CHECK ON LIFE, BUDDY".
Posted by cooldogjones (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's a sad, sad, sad, sad world
I'm generally one to stand up for copywrites, but in a case like this,
I think it's totally rediculous. I really can't say enough about it to
truly point out how stupid this is.
Posted by Dr. B (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Load of garbage
I remember being a DJ 10 years ago for a small bar. Nothing big, small place where people can have fun. People use to request the electric slide all the time. Use to play the song at least 3 times a night. The people didn't care doing the dance perfectly but people had fun doing it. The people didn't do the dance the way this guy does it, they had there own version. At the end of the night people left happy.

He has not made people happy doing this but made people distrust the entertainment industry as a whole. When does suing people cause they are happy the human way.
Posted by viperpa (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Then it's not his dance anyway...
If he's worried, as he says he his, about the dance being done "wrong", then IT'S NOT HIS DANCE, and he has no standing in terms of copyright. A different dance is not subject to whatever copyright he thinks he owns on his "correct" version. Please. Idiot.
Posted by p40tomahawk (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's what I was thinking!
If its done wrong, its not his dance!
Posted by mgarc1125 (54 comments )
Link Flag
Not an idiot.
Um, actually there's this thing called a derivative work. See 17
U.S.C. Section 106(2).
Posted by mrcjd07 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Who's an Idiot and Who's Smarter.
Number one Idiots should not condemn someone for protecting there property especially when they do not know what they are talking about. My friend if a own a million dollar piece of art and you change (alter) part of it, do I still not own it? Why does changing it void my ownership rights?

Richard Silver is interested in protecting his ownership of what some of you call a "stupid dance" while it is worth in access of a million dollars. Some people say he copied from the "Hustle". Did he or was the Hustle copied from the Electric Slide? How much did Bally Fitness pay for movements of the Electric Slide that became know as the Cha-Cha Slide? Where the movements of the Cha-Cha Slide as sold by DJ Casper original or did he copy them from the Electric Slide in 1995? How much has DJ Casper made off of the Cha-Cha Slide? It is clearly the Electric Slide with did words and commands. How much have other made off of other renditions of Ric Silver's genious?

Do I really believe that all of you that dislike the song, the dance, and Ric Silver's attempts to protect it, would really not come forward to claim and protect your rights if you knew that those rights where worth over a million dollar? Let's be honest!
Posted by AttitudeDancer (2 comments )
Link Flag
Prior Art
The outrageous thing is that this guy didn't even invent this dance in the 70's. My mother (age 64) remembers this dance being called "The Madison" back in the early '60's and one of her friends remembers doing this dance in the '50's. If anyone if getting harrassed by this guy for DMCA, I'd call his bluff.
Posted by Sevenfeet0 (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prior art is only relevant to Patent
Actually, prior art defeats the claim to novelty only under PATENT
LAW. All Copyright requires is a minimal amount of creativity/
independent creation. If this guy thought of the dance
independently, even if it were identical to somebody else's, he
would still be entitled to a copyright. He might not be able to
enforce it, as he would have to prove an infinger copied HIS dance
and not somebody else's, but he'd still be entitled to copyright.
Posted by mrcjd07 (2 comments )
Link Flag
The Madison is a 40's dance
I would love to talk to these people and get their facts - in as much as I have printed materials and signed affadavits
Posted by TheDancer (3 comments )
Link Flag
Digital milenium copright *ss more like
Has anybody noticed that the DMCA allows companies to perminantly remove our consumer rights.

If a record company puts even the most basic copy protection on something, that automatically trumps our "Fair Use" right to back up our store brought CDs, or even to copy them on to our ipods.

This is capitalism gone made.
Posted by perfectblue97 (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ignorant
You've got it entirely backwards. The provision of the DMCA (17 USC 512) that Electric Slide guy used to request takedowns of the video LIMITS the rights of copyright holders by immunizing ISPs (like YouTube) from liability if they comply with the takedown request. Prior to enactment of the DMCA, an ISP could be liable for the infringing acts of a subscriber.

So, know what you're talking about before you accuse the DMCA of being the root of all your imagined copyright ills.
Posted by steer99 (7 comments )
Link Flag
you are incorrect
You've got it entirely backwards. The provision of the DMCA (17 USC 512) that Electric Slide guy used to request takedown of the video LIMITS the rights of copyright colders by immunizing ISPs from liability if they comply with takedown requests. Prior to the DMCA, an ISP could be liable for the infringing acts of a subscriber.

So, don't blame the DMCA for all the copyright ills you imagine.
Posted by steer99 (7 comments )
Link Flag
So if they're doing it incorrectly....
Is it the electric slide?
Let's just sue everyone who ever danced or tried to dance, then sue them for the music they dared to listen to while dancing. Keep it up all you money grubbing lawyers/leaches, eventually the masses will just tell you all to go to hell. Right now I'm thinking about a blues session I thoroughly enjoyed at Joe's Generic Bar the last time I was in Austin. I'm sure if the lawyers thought long and hard they could find a way to sue me for replaying that memory in my head. This has gotten way out of hand. Sleazy lawyers inept judges, start applying some common sense for God's sake.
Posted by iamotaku (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Somebody Alert Chubby Checker!
If THIS guy's suits pass muster, then Chubby Checker's MANY versions of The Twist and The Peppermint Twist are now also fair game!

However, I thought that there was a statute of limitations on FILING for infringement...! I know that I ran into that when someone published material of MINE a few years ago...

And tewnty-sever YEARS seems a little LONG for a statute of limitations on anything in civil court... at ALL!
Posted by mstrhypno (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Chubby Checker wasn't the first twister
Although Chubby Checker undoubtedly popularised the twist, he didn't originate it. The first twist record was put out by Hank Ballard in 1958, a year before Checker covered it.
Posted by rodparkes (3 comments )
Link Flag
If they aren't...
Doing his dance correctly, then they aren't doing his dance. So not copyright infringement. That is unless our wonderful government and they wonderful copyright laws now means that when someone copyrights something that that copyright covers anything that is similar, I guess in this case a dance.

What a bunch of bull. They should shove an electric cattle prod up the governments... and the copyright holders... Now that would be an "Electric Slide"! :)

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
total garbage!!!!
why isnt there rules on patiting stupid stuff like dance moves. Come on people that is so retarded. This makes me want to take a vidio of myself doing the electric slide and making it public just to **** that old geezer off. this is like geting a patent for doing a special wink with your eye and everybody that winks wrong in the world gets there arse sued for doing it "improperly". Lame .....
Posted by LeviGaret (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
yay!
So the creator realized what a silly dance it was and is trying to litigate it out of existence... eventually, we will live in a world where nobody knows what the electric slide is... the last vestiges of which live in the dark recesses of the minds of those who tried to perform it and were sued...
Posted by amccarri (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Oh who cares
Are they going to enforce the copyright on the Chicken Dance...or how about the Jump, Jump, Jump around song they play at college football games.

Geesh...Richard Silver needs to get a life.
Posted by Professor Cornbread (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have a patent too
Richard Silver, I have a patent on having one's head up ones posterior. I don't think you are doing it correctly so I am demanding that you cease and desist immediately.
Posted by befuddledms (113 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.