Victory for Kauai kumu hula after Japan court rules she may copyright her choreography

Victory for Kauai kumu hula after Japan court rules she may copyright her choreography

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During the four year legal battle, kumu hula Kapu Kinimaka-Alquiza of Hanapepe, Kauai danced in a Japan court to show that her hula choreography was original. She filed suit to get a Japanese hula operator to stop using her choreography without permission.

According to NHK, a judge in Osaka district court ruled Thursday that hand movements in hula express lyrics, show originality and may be copyrighted.

"I'm very very happy not just for myself, but that our story can help other kumu hula," she said.

For 26 years, Kinimaka-Alquiza taught hula for the Kyushu Hawaiian Association. When she left in 2014, she asked the operator to stop using the thousands of dances she had choreographed but apparently that didn't happen. NHK reported the operator said hula cannot be copyrighted since its hand movements are like sign language.

"I have never ran into anyone who was so disrespectful to the culture and totally ignored my request," said Kinimaka-Alquiza.

Kinimaka-Alquiza says she had no contract in Japan, but will consider them in the future.

"Our hula and our choreography is our intellectual property right and this is something that all kumu should know especially when we travel away to do workshops," said kumu hula Vicky Holt Takamine.

She says the case is reminder that working for hula associations in Japan has different rules than dancing hula in a halau.

"An association is a business. It's not a halau at all," said Takamine.

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