Many suspects that dance crew WayB’s leader NO:ZE is only using the NFT project “Dance with NO:ZE,” which is said to protect choreography copyrights, to make money.
NO:ZE’s NFT project “Dance With NO:ZE” aims to protect choreography copyright by applying the NFT technology to choreography videos. However, it is widely believed that this is nothing more than a means of making money excluding problems related to the choreography copyright law. This is because it is almost impossible to protect choreography copyright with NFT technology.
NFT technology and copyright are two completely different concepts. NFT (non-fungible token) is an irreplaceable token that blocks data to prevent the modification of online transactions (such as transaction, shipment, sales, return, deposit, withdrawal, and revision) and connects cryptographic technologies in chains. Copyright refers to the right of the author to their work. There is a difference that the former is closer to the concept of ownership, not copyright, and lacks a legal protection system, while the latter is based on legal grounds. Ownership refers to the right to use, profit, and dispose of the goods in question under civil law.
NO:ZE is promoting that applying NFT technology to her choreography video can protect choreography copyright. However, this applies NFT technology to the ‘video’ itself, and if you purchase this NFT, you will have ownership of the ‘video’. Copyright for the ‘choreography’ in the video cannot be obtained. To put it more easily, when we buy a book at a bookstore, we have ownership of a tangible object called a book, but the copyright of the book still belongs to the author. Nevertheless, on NO:ZE’s “Dance with NO:ZE” website, there is a phrase claiming that the choreography copyright can be protected through the purchase of NFT.
Rather, the public is not happy as NO:ZE should have used her influence to improve the awareness on choreography copyright law, not NFT technology. Choreography corresponds to No. 3 of the examples of works presented in Article 4 (1) of the Copyright Act, and copyright can be protected by registering with the Korea Copyright Association. However, unlike writings, music, and photos, it is difficult to define the scope of creation and record certain movements in a fixed medium. Among the works registered with the Korea Copyright Association in 2020, only 73 cases include choreography. On the other hand, there are 21,237 cases of art, 5,907 cases of language, 2,610 cases of music, and 1,492 cases of photography.
Incumbent dancers are also skeptical of No:ze’s NFT project. Dancer In Ji-woong told WikiTree, “‘Just Jerk’ and ‘Lachica’ also tried NFT, but they stopped because they were blocked by realistic parts. There are already precedents. No:ze used just marketing (choreography copyright protection), but in reality it’s just NFT sales. It’s not clear from where to where the choreography is basic or not, and it can’t be left in the score like music. If it goes like No:ze said, if you upload a 12-hour freestyle dance video and apply NFT technology, that movement will be yours.”
He pointed out, “Dancers don’t think about complicated problems like NFT. They know that it’s practically impossible. Dancing is just a way to express yourself with your body, so how can it be copyrighted? No:ze’s agency Starting House is a small and medium-sized company with 5 employees. They’re only borrowing her fame to sell NFT. How can a small and medium-sized company with 5 people do what is being done carefully by large corporations such as BTS’ agency HYBE? If fans buy No:ze’s NFT profile pictures, they can attend her fan meeting. I think this is completely out of line with the purpose of protecting choreography copyright.”
It is true. No:ze is the first to issue PEP (Profile Pictures, NFT that allows you to set a profile online) rather than choreography videos, raising doubts about its authenticity. There will be 10,000 selfies of No:ze to be issued in this way, and each will be sold for 550,000 won (including VAT). The expected profit is a whopping 5 billion won. The sales method is also ironic. In general, NFT asset transactions are conducted in the form of auctions using the cryptocurrency Ethereum, etc. on the NFT platform. No:ze sells her selfies by individually contacting the buyer after the buyer enters name, contact information and cryptocurrency wallet address in Google Forms (survey format) on the “Dance with No:ze” homepage. Payment is not possible with cryptocurrency, only with cash.
Dancer Poppin ‘Hyun Joon presented a slightly different direction from the perspective of the choreography copyright law. He told WikiTree, “I don’t know much about NFT. However, to protect choreography copyright, I think it’d be better to start with the K-POP cover dance. When using a work (more than 4 bars) expressed with movements that fit the music, I think intellectual property rights protection (through copyright registration) and profits should go to the creator if this is used for economic activities. For example, movements such as moonwalk or headspin can’t be copyrighted, but it seems possible with works. Like other dancers’ opinions, there are some unrealistic aspects of choreography copyright, but I believe that a systematic system will be created in the future by gathering various attempts.”
Choreography copyright is a right that should be protected. However, the first task to be solved is to improve awareness of the choreography copyright law. If it is used as a money-making tool called NFT technology, it can only stay in the same place. In a time like these days when dancers are attracting attention, it seems that resistance can be reduced by taking a more cautious approach.