Understanding Derivative Works Under the Copyright Law

January 21, 2020 3:10 pm Published by

Are You Sure You’re Creating New Work?

When you create a new product, service, or piece of artwork, you might be treading on someone else’s intellectual property. It’s important to protect yourself by creating work that you know to be original. Your intent should always be to create something better in order to pursue your business goals. Do you need more sales? Create a better tagline for your product. Instead of copying your competitors, create a better product altogether.

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However, there are plenty of people in various industries that derive the nature of their business from the success of other people. It takes strength to be original. In the times of proven algorithms that run our digital cyber community, we must strive to create bold, compelling moves in our industries.

If you feel like you have created a derivative work, you will need to change your habits. If you continue to copy the work of other people, you’ll be stuck in the same position for the rest of your existence.

The same thing goes for believing that there are people in your life that are out to copy your work. If you can prove that they are taking your work and passing it off as their own, you could get their business shut down. You might even be able to press charges against them. These types of pirates of industry need to be turned in to avoid corruption of the moral ground of our society.

Learning about derivative work and copyright laws might change the way that you conduct business. It will make you more careful about your choices, and it will make you more confident about the products and services that you produce. Knowing that your work is original gives you the power to shout to the rest of the world about the ingenious products you have designed with your own two hands.

Why This Information Might Impact Your Business

No matter what industry you’re in, your business decisions are being watched by the rest of the world. We live in a time where everything is done by your business is being monitored. Your competitors are watching to see what types of marketing strategies you use, but they’re also looking to see if you’re copying off of them.

If you copy someone else, they might tell the world about your lack of creativity. They might even press charges by taking you to court for violating copyright laws. Whatever the outcome of the ordeal happens to be, one thing is for certain: your business will look weak.

A defensive strategy that you must make includes creating original work, but you must also be on the lookout for your competitors’ intent to copy your work. Businesses try to get ahead of the rest of their industry, so it’s possible that your competition saw what you’re doing when you posted your work.

If there is a situation where neither party believes that they created a derivative work, the process might need to move into arbitration. In arbitration proceedings, the parties in question will be asked to provide proof of the date of the published work, the initial production date, et cetera. Be prepared to show evidence that you are the creator of the work being evaluated. However, this is not legal advice. You need to seek the help of a professional attorney to understand the full scope of the law in your state.

Is Your Work Derivative of Someone Else’s?

If you are being accused of creating derivative work, you will feel the need to rise above the accusations. If you’re not feeling that urge, then you might be guilty of copying someone else’s work. As a matter of integrity, it’s important that you strive to create original work. You’ll feel more confident telling other people about your projects, and you will be able to share your original work freely.

Many artists go through periods where they are producing work that is inspired by the work of other artists, and they will even sample other works. If you do this for your own projects, you should get permission from the creator of the original. Although it might be worth the educational experience of creating your own pieces that incorporate another artist’s work, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make profit from such endeavors. If you try to release this type of work, you might be brought up on charges by the creator of the original work.

There are some exceptions to these rules, however. When you are borrowing another artist’s work to critique their work, you may be able to sample it. However, you should cite the source of the original in combination with fair use laws.

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Learn About Copyright Law in the United States

Copyright law isn’t easy to understand on your own. Unless you have been studying law throughout your entire lifetime, you might have trouble finding the right information that pertains to your particular needs. Since the information found on the government’s website is available, you should take a look for yourself. It’s interesting to see what you can find, and you’ll certainly learn something about copyright laws in the United States.

Title 17 goes into detail about various issues that relate to creating new work, and it provides a detailed explanation of what is included in copyright. It also discusses several examples of exceptions to copyright law. It’s important to note the boundaries of the law in order to avoid legal disputes.

For example, you may note that an institution is using your work in its classes. You might wish to receive compensation for a digital recording that is being used in such instructional seminars. However, copyright law gives some allowances for digital recreations of protected work. In section 110(2) of Chapter 1, title 17 describes how an individual is allowed to use derivative productions of work for the purposes of educating others. Although there are several stipulations surrounding the containment and use of derivative work, the law does extend to defend some instances of such works being produced.

How to Avoid Legal Disputes Over Copyright

The best way to avoid someone coming after you about a work you crafted being derived from one of their own creations is to only create original work. Your work should express an original idea. Otherwise, you are copying someone else’s creation.

There are scenarios when someone creates something that references another individual’s work in a way that new information is created. This makes room for the creation of literary critiques. People are making a new product based on someone else’s work, but disputes over these types of works still occur.

How do you avoid creating work that receives such negative attention? It’s not possible to scan all of the work ever created by every individual. However, you should give honest intent to create something new and original. If you reference someone else’s work, be sure to add citations to your work to avoid being accused of plagiarism. In music, it’s also important to reference the work of the original composer.

Get Permission to Produce a Derivative Work

There are two types of people that are allowed to produce a derivative work. The first type of person is the creator of the original piece. Whether the original creation involved one or more individuals, the original creating party may create a new piece that is based on the original work. They might reference and sample parts of the original. This is done in the film industry on a frequent basis. Usually, a new sequel to a cheesy comedy will have callbacks to the original work. Some sequels to films even make use of clips from the original predecessors.

What if it isn’t your work? Can you still make a derivative production? You can make it, but you need to get permission before you release the work. There have been instances where people have created derivatives of popular originals; fortunately, they were allowed to exist on their own. However, it’s a good idea to get permission early in the process because the derivative production could be shut down at any time with a cease and desist letter.

If you are considering getting permission to produce a derivative piece, you might find that the original creator is willing to provide written permission for various legal rights (to produce and distribute the work you create). However, you should hire a legal professional to smooth out any agreements. Likewise, if you are giving permission to another party to allow for the production of a derivative work based upon your original creation, you should have an attorney look at the contract.

Find out Who Owns the Copyright of the Work

There are two scenarios in which people want to know the copyright owner of a work. The first scenario involves finding out who owns the work that appears to be derivative of your own work. If you have not given a license (or assignment) to another party to create the derivative piece, they are committing a form of copyright infringement.

In order to figure out who created the work, look for any information that points back to the derivative producer. If the work is on a site, you should find out information about the creator of the website. You may wish to contact the host or the domain registrar for this information. You might even request the termination of the website hosting the derivative work. However, you will need to provide proof that you are the creator of the original work.

The other scenario involves finding out who the original creator is in order to ask for the assignment of the rights to create a derivative work. It’s up to the creator to decide whether they want to grant such rights. They might be honored to know that derivative works exist, but they will likely ask that you abstain from selling your derivative piece.

Are You Allowed to Derive Work From Your Own Piece?

According to the outlines of the United States copyright laws (also known as title 17 of the United States Code), the creation of an original work gives certain rights to the creator. The creator is entitled to make derivatives that are subsequent to the original work. All works that are created in that same undeniable way in the future will need to receive permission to be released.

You are allowed to create products based on your own production. If you are a painter, you are allowed to create paintings that use previous images that you’ve created. If you are a videographer, you have the rights to use footage that you’ve filmed. Many businesses that have created original products have a desire to create other items based on successful ventures.

If you are having trouble deciding if you need to ask for special permission to use a work that you’ve created, you may wish to seek professional guidance in the matter. There’s a chance that you will need to receive some permission, but it depends on the nature of your work. In the example of a filmmaker using footage from previous projects, the individual will need to have the actors and actresses sign waivers for the new project. However, an attorney will be better suited to guide you in this matter.

What About Art?

This is where the lines between derivative and original become blurry. Art is often called a reflection of life, and this means that all art could be said to be a derivative of something else. Some would say that you can’t have something new without reflecting on something else in the world.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t such a thing as a new idea. To put it simply, something is derivative due to the intent to copy another work. However, one could posit that a person might accidentally produce a work that they believe is original, but the piece incorporates enough influence of another work to merit it being called derivative. In this case, arbitration may be the only way to settle the argument.

Seeking Legal Assistance for a Copyright Infringement

In one case of derivative work, a friend of mine was working in the marketing business with an e-commerce website. His business posts blogs about their industry to give marketing materials to other people in various sectors. When he posted a new story, he expected to see normal trends in website traffic, but the traffic was cut in half.

They did a little research to find that someone was copying the work that my friend posts for his blog. The other blog published their work on the same day, so it was difficult to prove that they were taking my friend’s blog. However, they weren’t being crafty about taking my friend’s work. This was a case of copy and paste, which is worse than being derivative.

They were lucky to catch the guy. When they caught the guy who was stealing my friend’s work, the derivative site was shut down. If you are having trouble with a case of copyright infringement, you should speak to an attorney about your options to press charges over the matter.

State and federal courts take copyright infringement issues seriously. If the lawyer you speak to feels that there is a case, they will direct you on how to proceed.

You may also wish to speak to any of the power holders in the situation. In the example of my friend, he spoke to the host that was in control of the website that was copying his material. Check out LLC Formations for the best business info available online.