Tracing the Steps Enquiry 2019


By Fiona Delaney

Dance Attribution – Tracing the Steps 

Exploring the role of distributed technology in creating a record of attribution and archive in the realm of professional dance.

Distributed Ledger Technologies have the potential to provide a trust layer to digital information systems. This is achieved via a network of peer-to-peer distributed nodes that record an immutable, timestamped record of events and transactions (World Economic Forum, 2016). 

There has been some exploration of the appropriateness of DLT technologies in tracking digital IP and creating proof-of-existence, copyright and ownership records (Savelyev, 2018), and numerous technical implementations exist.

We extend these enquiries to the field of dance and explore the potential for digital technologies to enhance attribution and authorship records. 

Choreography is most often presented publicly in live performance. The number of performances can be quite limited, and may not always be recorded, or be archived, or available in the public domain for viewing. 

With notable exceptions, where great efforts are made to protect, archive and licence work (eg. Merce Cunningham Trust ), attribution, authorship and records of contribution are often ad hoc and can be difficult to document. 

In addition, in order for a choreography to have any copyright protection, it needs to be recorded – in notation, but most often filmed. There are few dance archives for choreographers to deposit their works. 

The result is that choreographers and dance artists can find it difficult to maintain a public record of their creation of original dance works, their participation as collaborators or performers, or the existence of public performances of their works.

Recent high-profile cases of alleged plagiarism (by Beyoncé of Anna Teresa de Keersmaker’s work), and alleged theft (by Fortnite of Alfonso Ribiero’s work) reveal the complexities of choreographic copyright protection and accreditation. 

The risk of reputational loss or diminution is significant, as is the risk of influential collaborators being written out of the history of new works. The protection of collaborator rights is central to any proposed solution. 

This enquiry seeks 

  • first, to protect the rights of choreographers and performers to have their role acknowledged within a chain of attribution. 
  • second, to forge a proof-of-attribution: for the creation of new movements/segments/acts/ entire works; and of the performer as collaborator. This may include various forms of documentation – dance notation, digital imagery, audio and other media files with reference to the Persist Program (2016) and UNESCO (2016) Recommendation concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage Including in Digital Form. 
  • third, to maximise the potential for AI, computer vision and other autonomous technologies in determining, testing and oversight of the system 

Findings (published in ITU_T FG DLT D2.1 (2019-08): DLT use cases)

Source: Copyright @ John Scott | Irish Modern Dance Theatre 2019


Traceability, attribution, and royalties

Archive and attribution records in the performing arts (music, dance, art in the public realm) are important to culture and community. Browsable digital archives that co-exist with and complement the living archives of performers’ bodies are vital to documenting the artistic achievements of an individual, a company, and a genre or art form sub-group. Many performers document their work digitally and these artifacts take various forms: text, image, video, augmented reality (AR) / virtual reality (VR), movement analysis, and sensor data. This digitized data may be usefully repurposed and included in archive and attribution records.

In addition, there is a cohort of creators who share performative output across social channels (e.g. B-boys use Instagram to share new moves and challenge rivals prior to competitions or other events). Many creators object to their creative output being re-purposed, re-used, and/or monetized without attribution, permission, or their knowledge.

Where digital artifacts of performances are available, ownership and royalties due can be asserted via DLT (eg Soundac). It is worth noting that existing systems are poor at tracking and collecting royalty payments on the part of creators.

Performance on digital decentralized platforms

Given the context of IP theft and the fair concern with copyright and income protection on the part of creatives, there is a growth in DLT-based online performance outlets. A number of new streaming platforms facilitate alternative performance opportunities with direct payment to creators.

This represents a new audience reach for creators within competitive art forms, freestyle dance, hiphop music as well as traditional arts where cultural expression is handed down from body to body by informal means. Examples of these DLT use cases include video streaming on DLT (DLive), music streaming on DLT (, and movie distribution on DLT (Breaker). Decentralized live-streaming has relevance to the eSports and gaming communities too, where gaming is a performed entertainment.

Fiona Delaney (Origin Chain Networks) and Ríonach Ní Néill (Ciotóg). Copyright 2019.

Contributors at the first Tracing the Steps Enquiry event (May 2019 – Blockchain Ireland Week): Oisin Boydell and Saad Shahid (CeADAR), Cathy Coughlan (Havoc Dance), John Scott (Irish Modern Dance Theatre), Yvonne McNamara (Barrister at Law), Ismael Arribas (Kunfud), Jerome Pons (Music Wont Stop).


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