Tiktok Creators Fighting for the Copyrights to Their Work

Choreographer JaQuel Knight and Logitech teamed up to recognize BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) creators, including Keara Wilson, by helping ten creators start the process for copyrighting their choreography. This would be done through – labanotation, a method that documents dance steps with symbols in specific patterns, according to their announcement.

The #Creators4BIPOC Movement is helping ten BIPOC choreographers who are fighting to get recognition for their dance creations which include originators of several viral TikTok dances. Among them are epic choreographies for Megan Thee Stallion’s hit ‘Savage’ and Cardi B’s ‘Up’.

Keara Wilson is the creator of a viral TikTok dance for Megan Thee Stallion’s single ‘Savage’ that became a global sensation. According to Variety, Wilson has taken the first step to secure long-awaited copyright for her work among creators like Young Deji who did ‘The Woah’ dance, the Nae Nae Twins (“Savage Remix” dance), and Mya Johnson and Chris Cotter who joined forces for Cardi B’s “Up” dance are being helped by the #Creators4BIPOC movement to secure the copyrights to their choreography.

Despite the increasing popularity of Keara’s ‘Savage’ TikTok dance, she was often left out of conversations and proper credit surrounding where the dance originated. Now, with the efforts of dancer and choreographer- JaQuel Knight, Keara and a handful of other creators are on the path to owning their work in the legal sense.


The first step in helping the creators secure copyright to their choreography

JaQuel Knight led this initiative and is paving the way for the future of copyrighting the dance. He made history earlier this year by becoming the first choreographer to copyright his dance moves – for none other than Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’. He launched Knight Choreography and Music Publishing Inc last year – a publisher that will help other artists copyright their dances.

JaQuel has now partnered with Logitech to help the chosen BIPOC creators own and monetize their creations and in July, the ten choreographers were presented with labanotations. Labonations is a notation system for recording and analyzing human movement that Variety reports is “the first step in helping the creators secure copyright to their choreography”.

Speaking with the Variety ahead of the July 28 event held at La Mesa Lounge, Knight said, “It’s getting really serious. How much longer do we allow for the art of choreography and the art of dance to be taken advantage of?”. “Copyrighting movement is about putting the power back in the artist’s hands,” he said, and the evening celebrating BIPOC creators was just the beginning.

The list of creators who were surprised with the news and presented with labanotations at the celebration dinner that closed #Creators4BIPOC month, a movement that aims to help address barriers disproportionately faced by BIPOC creators can be found: HERE

Meredith Rojas, Logitech’s global head of creator and entertainment marketing, added: “This is about putting the creator at the centre of everything we do.”


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How did it start?

This news comes following Black users who create viral TikTok dances that are too often not credited for their work. Black creators’ continuously struggle with creating original online content that is eventually taken by white creators.

They participate in the viral trends by copying these dances and monetizing and profiting from them, which was most sharply exemplified by Addison Rae’s April 2021 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Rae taught a number of routines to the host Jimmy Fallon, without crediting the creators of the moves and they received backlash for the same.


While speaking to PopSugar at the time, the co-creator of the ‘Up’ dance- Mya Johnson recalled, “I was very surprised because it’s like, ‘Wow, I made a dance that’s made it all the way to TV”. “My mom always tells me, ‘When it’s my time, it’s my time.’ I felt like that should’ve been my time and Chris’s time, because we created the dance,” Johnson added.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was heavily criticized for not giving credit where it’s due, (in this case, to the mostly Black creators of the dances Addison and Fallon performed together in an episode on the show) and also for not asking the dances’ original Black choreographers to take part in the segment.

“On our last show before break, we did a bit with Addison Rae where she taught me eight viral TikTok dances,” said Fallon while addressing the controversy over a segment on the show with TikTok star, Addison Rae. “Now, we recognize that the creators of those dances deserve to have their own spotlight. So right now, some of the creators will join me to talk about how their dance went viral and then perform the dance themselves.”


Fourteen-year-old Jalaiah Harmon created the now famous ‘Renegade’ dance by choreographing the viral dance last September, five to ten minutes before dance practice, and uploaded it to Instagram. In just about a month, TikTok dancers Global.Jones and Charli D’Amelio were gaining attention for their version of the Renegade dance with some celebrities as well jumping on the fray with their renditions.

However, the only problem was none of these videos referenced Jalaiah — the original creator even though she was leaving comments on Instagram and TikTok asking users to recognize that she was the creator of the dance but to no avail.

Keeping such instances in mind, wherein white people copy the choreography of Black TikTok creators- some Black creators pulled off a strike in June 2021 when Megan Thee Stallion released her summer hit ‘Thot Shit’, and refused to create dances for it. They did this to protest the white users’ appropriation of their work and raise awareness of the work they are contributing to the app and gain proper recognition for it.


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