Imagine working tirelessly on your "baby", putting time and money in marketing and promoting, dedicating hours and sacrificing family time and sleep to deliver a dynamic book, song, artwork or design and then showcasing it to the world. Now imagine doing all of these things only to have someone take your hard work, throw a P. Diddy Remix on it, and re-release it as their "original" work. (No digs to Diddy because I love a good Diddy remix, and Diddy undoubtedly used the proper channels for permission and payment to produce his classic remixes.) What we are referring to are those creative copiers who see, hear or read other's work and then re-manufacture it as an original thought without permission, payment or even a shout out for the inspiration. Yes, those people. It is sad that we live in a time where fake is the new real, hoes are the new housewives, and ignorance is the new bliss. However, it doesn't mean that we should give up the fight. We have to spread truth and law to keep the creative originals protected.
Let's be clear, everyone has been inspired by someone else and there is nothing wrong with using works of others. It simply must be executed properly. In other words, give credit where credit is due. If it is not your original thought, idea, or work then use the proper channels of giving credit. Not only is this a professional courtesy, it is also the law. Therefore, properly crediting the originator protects you as well.
COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: What is it?
According to Copyright.gov (n.d), "As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner."
For the purpose of the blog today, the key focus is derivative work. So let's examine this. What exactly is a derivative work? According to Copyright.gov (n.d), "A derivative work is a work based on or derived from one or more already existing works. Common derivative works include translations, musical arrangements, motion picture versions of literary material or plays, art reproductions, abridgments, and condensations of preexisting works."
When we tie all of this together, it means that if you do place a remix on a work it can be considered a derivative work, which is covered under copyright laws. However, let's take it one step further. Is rewriting a work, really a copyright infringement or infringing on a derivative work, you ask? Let's check some sources. According to the U.S. Department of State's Focus on Intellectual Property Rights, (as cited in Nerd Writer Mom, 2010), "there's a chance that the concept of "substantial similarity" would apply and protect my work from being rewritten."
In the infamous words of Kanye West, "How Sway?". I will tell you exactly how. I will refer back to my previous source. Let's address exactly what substantial similarity is and how it applies to rewritten works. Copyright.gov states (as cited in Nerd Writer Mom, 2010), "What is substantial similarity? The glossary defines it as how similar an original copyrighted work is to the work accused of copyright violation, and notes: Exact word-for-word or line-for-line identity does not define the limits of copyright infringement. U.S. courts have chosen the flexible phrase "substantial similarity" to define that level of similarity that will, together with proof of validity and copying, constitute copyright infringement."
Here is the most important point. Nerd Writer Mom (2010) further explains, "So if you rewrite a work or more than one works, even if you don't use the exact phrasing, even if you never copy a single sentence, it's not only considered plagiarism, but also may constitute copyright infringement."
In other words, YES! Copyrights can be infringed on not only derivative works, but works that have substantial similarities (ie...rewritten works) BOOM! Did that just blow your mind? It is important that you understand not only your rights, but the rights of others. You could very well find yourself in the middle of a legal battle by simply not giving the professional courtesy of credit. The cure is originality.
Besides, why leave someone else's mark on the world? It is already been impressed by the originator. Each person has their own unique gift and talent. With hard work, dedication, practice and prayer, you can tap into your uniqueness. Take the time to be sure that you're being a creative original and not a creative copy.
We hope that we were able to deliver a valuable lesson today and that you will take heed as you go about your creative journey. Remember invest in yourself and your readers will invest in U!
Until next time…
Definitions FAQ's. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-definitions.html
Nerd Writer Mom. (2010). Is rewriting a copyright violation? Retrieved from http://nerdwriter.blogspot.com/2010/08/is-rewriting-copyright-violation.html
U.S. Copyright Office. (2013). Copyright in derivative works and compilations (Publication 14, 1).
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.