“Copy cat kissed the rat”. Do you remember that chant we used to do in primary school? I do. But what’s the deal with copyright anyway? Yes it’s a footnote, following on from ‘the medium is the message’, but seriously what’s the deal?
The idea of ‘copyright’ comes down to ownership and control. Before copyright content creators had no property claims on their intellectual work, basically anyone could steal your idea without any ramifications. Without copyright, who would bother publishing anything if it can just be stolen straight away?
It comes down to crediting. We can share all content, “copy” if you will, however the problem lies in claiming another’s words as our own. Not cool. But where do we draw the line?
During my poetry-writing phase, I read a poem by a friend and was inspired to write my own. After publishing it, she contacted me crying wolf and saying i’d copied her, despite no content being the same. Although it was quickly sorted out once she understood she’d inspired my idea, and i’d agreed to do a promotional blurb at the end of the poem, it was all good.
So what’s the line between being ‘inspired’ by another’s work, as opposed to breaking copyright laws?
From a design perspective, these lines are blurred. It’s common practice for designers to check out a number of sources previous to creating their own. According to Irene Zeitler, “As legal advisers on copyright law we are frequently told by people involved in the clothing and footwear industry that in order to avoid copyright infringement all you need to do is:
1. change the colour of the design
2. change 10 per cent of the design, and/or
3. leave some elements out of or introduce some new elements to the design.
The answer to the question of when ‘inspiration’ becomes copyright infringement is complex”.
No, it’s not easy to determine subtle issues of copyright such as in design, unless the work has been blatantly copied aka plagiarism. And then how does one even begin to address the other points surrounding copyright, such as appropriation, satirisation, and claiming that you were the first to come up with the idea?
This graph should break it down:
Its definitely fair to say that copyright is a huge and complex web of ties and laws which all seek to determine who owns what and who controls what.