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Legal risks of a flash mob!

Posted by Steve Vondran | May 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

Flash Mob Law Basics – Things to think about before planning your next flash mob!


Flash mobs are fun as heck to watch and even harder to put together as a planner.  There are many “moving pieces” and also many “legal risks” that need to be considered.  This blog provides a general legal overview of some of the main things to keep in mind as you get ready to launch the next great flash mob!  We are one of the few law firms in the United States (as far as we are aware) with a legal practice area in flash mob law.  If you like this blog post, feel free to share it on your social media websites.

Top 10 important legal items to consider with flash mob performances

  1. Get clearance from the City (you may need to obtain a permit)
  2. Get clearance from property owners (if you are planning on using private property)
  3. Do you need an insurance policy (ex. general liability insurance)?  This may protect you from unexpected lawsuits that result from personal injuries, blown eardrums, criminal theft allegations, and other lawsuits.
  4. Will you be shooting video footage, if so, are there privacy concerns of bystanders?   Can someone be filmed in public without their consent?
  5. Who will own the rights to the media produced? (ex. copyrights in choreography).  This raises the legal issue of “Who owns the dance?”
  6. Is a copyrighted song being used – do you have the legal rights to publicly perform the song
  7. Did you obtain a release or right of publicity clearance from each performer?
  8. Have you taken steps to ensure a safe performance?
  9. First amendment and decency laws (ex. nude bike rides, topless performers, etc.)
  10. Local laws, rules, ordinances, and regulations (you always need to check your local codes)

Copyright protection for dance and choreography

Another important consideration is whether you want to hire a copyright lawyer to copyright the choreography.  Most people have never heard of this concept.  But according to the U.S. Copyright office:

“Choreography is the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns usually intended to be accompanied by music. As distinct from choreography, pantomime is the art of imitating or acting out situations, characters, or other events. To be protected by copyright, pantomimes and choreography need not tell a story or be presented before an audience. Each work, however, must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed.”

They go on to note a limitation and restriction on obtaining copyrights (which may apply in the typical flash mob setting]:

“Categories of dance and nondance movements and sport activities that do not meet subject matter requirements of “choreography” include simple social dances (ballroom, swing, salsa, etc.), exercise routines (aerobic dance, etc.), fight sequences, sport movements (including football plays, soccer positions and movements, karate movements), yoga positions or routines, and cheerleading routines.

If you are interested in exploring this aspect, or seeking copyright protection contact us at (877) 276-5084.

Attorney Steve explains Flash Mob Law

VIDEO:  Click on the picture above to watch the Flash Mob Law video.  Make sure to click on the Red “V” for Victory to SUBSCRIBE to our legal channel and receive free general legal updates to your email box.  As we like to say, “be smarter than your friends.”

Best flash mobs ever!

1.  Shopping mall flash mob 

2.  Sydney Australia bust a move!

3. Antwerp “do-re-me” dance

4. Flashmob with Symphony

5. Flashmob wedding proposal

6.  Flashmob musical in Food Court in Los Angeles

Flash mob legal news

Here are a few cases dealing with flash mobs, some started by actors, theater groups, improv, others by comedy troupes and others by creative dancers, singers and songwriters:

  1.  Flash mob sued for trespassing
  2. When flash mobs become CRIME MOBS (robberies, assaults, theft, pickpocketing)
  3. Is singing flash mob legal?
  4. 9 copyright laws every video producer should know
  5. Flash mob protests can cause personal injury 
  6. San Francisco cracks down on “pillow fight” flashmob after cleanup costs taxpayers $20,000
  7. Flashmob gun fight – this can get crazy for law enforcement
  8. “No Pants” subway ride

Here is one case that dealt with using flash mobs as a form of protest with Wallmart:

“In accordance with Rule 2(a)(6) of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure—Civil, appellants United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Organization United for Respect at Wal–Mart (an organization of Wal–Mart associates that refers to itself as “OURWalmart”), and Does 1–10, hereinafter “the union,” appeal from an order of the Benton County Circuit Court denying their motion to dissolve or modify a stipulated preliminary injunction. The injunction was sought by Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., and other related business entities (Wal–Mart) after the union undertook a campaign of “flash mob” protests at Wal–Mart properties in northwest Arkansas. On appeal, the union argues that the circuit court erred because (1) Wal–Mart failed to prove a likelihood of irreparable harm *2 because it failed to adduce evidence of any harm and (2) Wal–Mart failed to prove a substantial likelihood of success on the merits because the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts this lawsuit. See United Food & Commercial Workers Int'l Union v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2014 Ark. 517, 1-2, 451 S.W.3d 584, 585 (2014)

Watch this Video to learn more about permissible restrictions on Free Speech


1.   U.S. Copyright office pamphlet on protecting choreography and dance with copyright protection

Contact a Flash Mob Lawyer

If your company, organization, or group is planning on performing a flash mob (or you are just wanting to do it as part of a wedding proposal or other celebration) we can help provide the legal guidance and planning you need to make sure your performance is performed legally, and that the resulting video is royalty free and able to be streamed across the world via the internet and social media.  When done right, a flash mob can be a thing of beauty that steals the hearts of millions of people.  When done wrong, it can be a legal or public relations nightmare. We can help.  If you were injured at a flash mob performance, you can also contact us to discuss your personal injury.  We can also help with permit denials, and first amendment violations.  Call us at (877) 276-5084. 

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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