Artful Expression

To copyright or not to copyright? That is the question.

The arts have always been an important part of any culture. The arts allow expression in an individual’s work while providing endless wonder and entertainment for patrons who love the work being produced. They take all forms, too — from painting, drawing and sculpting to plays, songs and dance.

Arts are the color of pleasure.

The Walt Disney Theater is the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’ largest venue, seating 2,700-plus people and offering exceptional sight lines. In all, the 330,000-square-foot center consumes two blocks in downtown Orlando.

Yet, their creation is something we often take for granted. Artists spend countless hours perfecting their creations for all of us to enjoy. And, consequently, those works should be protected.

Fortunately they are.

Indeed, as is the case with most inventions and ideas, the arts are protected against those who seek to profit from another’s diligent efforts. Through the application of intellectual property laws, artists can continue to profit from their own hard work.


Attorneys, of course, have always been mindful of those facts. That’s their job. At the same time, there are events that raise awareness even higher — like the opening of an arts center.

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is Orlando’s newest showcase of extraordinary expression from our most creative citizens. The state-of-the-art facility, opened Nov. 6, has already started a reinvigoration of artistic spirit in Metro Orlando, complemented by two other downtown venues: Amway Center and the renovated Orlando Citrus Bowl.

The debut of a new attraction is clearly an exciting time for anyone — but few are more excited than Ava Doppelt.

A highly experienced lawyer from Allen, Dyer, Doppelt, Milbrath, & Gilchrist, a firm dedicated to intellectual property with offices throughout Florida, she is also a longtime supporter of the area’s performing arts. Doppelt served as president of the Orlando Ballet until July 1 and continues as chairwoman.

The performances housed in the new arts center raise a legal question: Can the creativity be copyrighted?

The center’s opening, Doppelt says, represents a significant time for Orlando, helping to raise the city’s status as a culturally enriched region. She describes the completion of the performing arts center as a “class act” from everyone involved. Her assessment: “The cooperation between donors and benefactors is a great example of cooperation between private and public interests. The City of Orlando secured a prominent spot for the Dr. Phillips Center, making the center a cornerstone of downtown Orlando, both during the day and evening.”

Its opening also marks another passion for her — copyrighting.


“The most visual and performing arts are available for protection, usually copyright,” she says. “A copyright is meant to protect original expression, in contrast to a patent, which protects how things work. It’s extremely common to find copyright notation or symbols on novels, but copyrights extend far beyond works of literature. Poems, plays, sound recordings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and television and radio broadcasts can be the subject of copyright protection. Even the choreography of a ballet can be copyrighted.

“A lot of the beauty in art is the expression that comes from something unique. However, it should be noted that the expression, not a style or type of art, is eligible for copyright,” she says.

“The dialogue of a play can be copyrighted,” she continues. “Musical numbers have the potential to be granted a copyright, as can original background music. A choreographed dance routine could qualify. Set designs and costumes could all fall within the protection of the Copyright Act.”

But how to protect? The sheer amount of music produced and played daily seems like a difficult endeavor to properly monitor. For example, how does someone receive appropriate compensation if a song he or she owned was played around the nation or across the world?

Doppelt points to the nonprofit performing rights organization American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, better known as ASCAP.


ASCAP is essentially a designated middleman between music creators and music broadcasters. ASCAP’s responsibilities include monitoring public performances of music under their copyright umbrella and receiving the collection fees from the broadcasters. After collection, ASCAP then sends the creators their proper royalties. This set-up is intended to help simplify the collection fees.

Without ASCAP, copyright holders would be largely responsible for billing broadcasters the royalties they were owed, while broadcasters would be responsible for paying royalties directly to every creator for every piece of music they broadcast. ASCAP helps this cause by simply collecting and distributing all the money through one single organization, thereby simplifying one of the more complex situations of copyrighted material, she explains.

Two others are the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers and Broadcast Music Inc.

In addition, Doppelt cites that building designs are copyrightable, if the architecture features enough of a unique flair — as in Orlando. “If you’ve seen the Dr. Phillips Center since its completion,” she says, “it’s likely that you’ve recognized it as a fairly unique venue. Lead architect Barton Myers’ work would clearly qualify.”

So consider this: The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a wonderful addition to Central Florida, adding immeasurable sophistication and entertainment to Orlando’s culture.

At the same time, remember that while the arts in all forms have always been a wonderful avenue for self expression, thanks to copyright laws — and copyright lawyers — that unique and profitable creativity remains protected.