Friday, June 15, 2018
Legal Problems regarding DNB publications
Submitted by Ann Hutchinson Guest - June 15, 2018
Following John Martin’s announcement on the forming of the Dance Notation Bureau we had a letter from Universal Publishers stating that we must in no way infringe on their copyright. The background to this was the experience that Irma Bartenieff and Irma Betz had in 1937 in publishing their book of Studies in Laban’s Dance Script. They were not allowed to give any explanation on the meaning of the symbols, that information was given as a leaflet insertion with Universal Publishers’ copyright.
In 1940 we replied that our activities did not infringe on their copyright. This limitation did pose problems for publishing a textbook in the future. We sought information from Laban but he was unable to help. All that our investigations produced was the strange information that the copyright had been requisitioned by the American Army when in Vienna after the war and then resided in Washington D.C. I fear that all correspondence concerning this no longer exists in the DNB files. As with the letter from Ninette de Valois expressing interest in having Labanotation at the Royal Ballet School (a very valuable document) these documents may have been turfed out when Herb Kummel took over as director of the DNB, his attitude being that nothing of the past was of value.
Because at that time a copyright extended for 27 years and then had to be renewed, in 1954 we were hoping that Laban would not be aware of this and the copyright would expire. He did become aware of it and hastily put out a publication Principles of Dance and Movement Notation by Rudolf Laban. It was so full of mistakes that it was rapidly withdrawn. I happen to have two copies of this publication. In it he stated:
This book is copyrighted in the United
States of America and in all countries
signatory to the Berne Convention. No
part of it may be reproduce in English
or in translation unless my written
permission and that of my publisher has
N.B. The signs for the notation of chore-
Graphic or other movements may, with due
Acknowledgement, be freely used. – R.L.
In 1956 Laban published a more impressive hard cover book with the same title published by Macdonald & Evans. It contained the same notice as above. In it we found signs and usages that were unfamiliar to us. Laban considered it his system, he did not need to confer with anyone else. However, in the early 1930s, he had given the system to the world, he was no longer interested in developing it, nor did he establish a body to oversee its development. Were it not for Albrecht Knust, who made it his life work, Sigurd Leeder and Ann Hutchinson with her colleagues at the Dance Notation Bureau, the system could well have died away. More than once Laban was keen to take it all back.
My first Labanotation textbook was published in 1954 by New Directions. How did we cope with the copyright situation? The copyright statement was as follows:
Copyright 1954 by The Dance Notation Bureau, Inc. “Alphabet of Basic Symbols,” Copyright 1954 by Rudolf Laban.
At the back of the book these appendices were given:
Alphabet of Basic Symbols
Copyright 1954 by Rudolf Laban
Variations in the drawing of certain symbols as used by some European colleagues have been included in this alphabet in order to facilitate reading scores. These have been marked “alternate version.”
Following this came:
Glossary of Supplementary Symbols which also gave alternate versions.
In his 1958 Kinetography Laban publications Albrecht Knust made similar statements.
The 1970 edition of Labanotation, published by Theatre Arts Books gave the following:
Copyright © 1954, 1970 by The Dance Notation Bureau, Inc. “Alphabet of Basic Symbols” Copyright 1954 by Rudolf Laban.
However, in the pages of Glossary of Symbols (page 499 on) there is no separation.
For the enlarged 2005 edition it states: Copyright © 2005 by Ann Hutchinson Guest. The appendices include: A – Alternate Versions. B – Old Versions. C – Orthography and Autography. D – Upper Body Movement. E – Terminology.
Compiled by Ann Hutchinson Guest on December 8th, 2016.