Phillip Mills: "Ashley Wagner and I have decided to go in different directions"

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Sylvia, Apr 15, 2013.

  1. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    I'm finding it very hard to imagine how choreography for an individual skater isn't work for hire and owned entirely by the skater. It's not like Mills designed the program for general use and then sold Ashley a license to use the piece - it was created expressly for her and he was paid in full for the work. Unless Mills had a contract with Wagner requiring her to follow the program exactly as delivered, she's free to alter it in any way she pleases. Of course, he's free to not work with her again, but he doesn't own the program - she does.
  2. AJ Skatefan

    AJ Skatefan Well-Known Member

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    I tried. But I must spread some around first.
  3. Yazmeen

    Yazmeen Well-Known Member

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    I did it for you and me, Sparks.
  4. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    I don't know how copyright issues in choreography work. I actually think its a fascinating topic worthy of its own thread. Some people here have made statements about it regarding dance ( I mean, I assume a Martha Graham or Alvin Ailey piece must be done the same way every time, right?) but I'd think with skating its more complicated. It seems to me choreographers are always happy to have their names attached to a program when it's close to the original, but tend to denounce it when it's not. In graphic design copyright works very differently, but thats another topic.

    FWIW, I do know Phillip personally, but no, he didn't call me directly and give me any inside scoop. His arrangements with skaters are not my business. I still think both he and Ashley are great people, and its as simple as they couldn't find common ground for this year.
    dinakt and (deleted member) like this.
  5. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    Those dancers, whether in a company or hired by the choreographers themselves, are paid to perform the works of a Martha Graham or an Alvin Ailey. They don't have any wiggle room to alter the choreographers' works without their direction. It's not the same at all as a skater who pays the choreographer to come up with a number for her.
  6. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    I think skaters should be able to alter their programs because it is really their career they have to worry about. They need to do what's best for them in order to maximize their points and skate as well as they can.

    That said, if it's altered to the point that the choreographer no longer wants to be associated with the work, then the skater should remove the choreographer's name or not attribute that routine with that choreographer upon the choreographer's requests.
  7. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    It's more complicated in dance too. For one thing, it's impossible to exactly duplicate a performance when humans are involved. Sometimes it's a matter of making mistakes. Sometimes it's a matter of physical limitations and sometimes it's a matter of interpretation. It complicates the issue of copyright because it raises the question of at what point do these changes alter the work enough that it no longer is a copy of the original and is now a new work.
  8. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    According to this interesting article, at least to me, there are 4 categories of Figure Skating Choreographers: The Dictator, The Visionary, The Collaborator and The Facilitator. There is nothing inherently wrong with being any of the types, but the skater should find out (and I would guess most do) what kind he or she will be working with before hiring.

    http://www.skatingaheadofthecurve.com/Choreography.html
  9. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    This is a bit off - topic.
    But I often wonder how one skater's choreography would look on a different kind of skater.

    Certain body types are good at different things, and it would be unlikely a skater with a smaller more muscular build could do something made for a skater with a longer frame.
  10. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    In the United States, Congress added coverage of choreographic works to copyright legislation in 1976 under the quality control principle. The quality control principle acknowledges that artists desire not only economic protection by also artistic protection. While choreographers are entitled to the economic profits derived from their work, they are also entitled to:

    The right to be known publically as the author of the work.
    The right to prevent someone else from claiming ownership of their work.

    THE RIGHT TO PREVENT ONE'S OWN NAME FROM BEING ASSOCIATED WITH the work of a third party OR WITH ONE'S OWN WORK ALTERED IN SOME WAY.


    So if say, in the case of Kwan and Bolero, she did change the choreography but continued to list Dean as the choreographer, he would have had grounds for bringing legal action against her.
  11. giselle23

    giselle23 Active Member

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    I think he would have had the right to have his name removed, but unless she tried to profit from it, I don't think he would have a claim for damages.
  12. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    Also, while the law says certain things, there is the matter of interpretation, precedent and enforcement. I am not remotely surprised that so few choreography copyright infringement cases have come before the courts. Copyright infringement of choreography is often very hard to prove and everyone involved have traditionally been gun-shy when it comes to involving the courts.

    Not that I think this has anything to do with Mills and Wagner. But it's interesting. :D
  13. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    According to the US Bureau of Labor:
    The median hourly wage of choreographers was $18.11 in May 2010. If a choreographer were fortunate enough to be employed for 52 weeks a year and five days a week and 8 hours day, his yearly income would be $37, 668.80.

    Specifically for figure skating choreographers, according to an article on careers in skating I read recently:
    Earnings of choreographers vary greatly depending on experience and job type. The median annual earnings for SALARIED choreographers is $33,670. Established choreographers can earn more than $70,000 per year. Many choreographers enjoy the benefits of union contracts, but freelancers do not receive these benefits.
  14. mag

    mag Well-Known Member

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    Now that I have thought about this, IMO, Ashely saw Mills as one of her coaches and that role was quite separate from his role as a choreographer. I suspect Mills saws the roles and completely intertwined and inseparable. When Ashley decided to go to Shae-Lynn for a new show program, Mills was probably hurt and saw it as Ashley slighting him. From Ashley's tweets, I suspect she thought he would continue on as part of her coaching team while she explored other choreographic styles. A misunderstanding that should have been discussed in private. That, again IMO, is a real problem with this instant age. It seems people tweet first and ask questions later. Unfortunately, I think it has made Mills look like a bit of a jerk.
  15. Cherub721

    Cherub721 YEAH!

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    This depends on whether he was an employee of Ashley or an independent contractor - if the latter, then the contract itself must specifically say work for hire. That provision cannot be read into a contract, it has to be stated explicitly. I'm guessing he was an independent contractor, but I guess there could be arrangements where someone is an employee of the rink and does all the choreo for certain skaters. It's the skater, though, that needs to make clear in the contract that this is a work for hire and/or that they have the right to change it... I assume that most do, but who knows?

    This concept is called droits moraux or moral rights.


    I think you have it. Regardless of who has the rights, choreographers are not going to run around suing all their students for changing their work. They understand that it's a sport and the skaters need to make changes. They'll take recourse by not working with the skater in the future or speaking out in the press. I could only see a lawsuit in the case of a very bitter split or where the skater has added something truly offensive and passed it off as the choreographer's work (sort of similar to the musician who wrote a cease and desist letter to DomShabs for using her music in the Aboriginal OD).