Intellectual Property Violations You May Not Be Aware OfWritten by ruxandra
You may not know this, but intellectual property disputes date as far as 500 years ago. Five centuries ago, artist Albrecht Dürer created a series of woodcut engravings depicting the life of the Virgin Mary only to discover that his work was being shamelessly copied by Marcantonio Raimondi, a fellow engraver. Raimondi not only copied the artwork of the series, but also Dürer’s signature on the wood blocks. Obviously, they didn’t have the precise and complex intellectual property laws that we have today but, still, the court of Venice ruled against Raimondi. He didn’t have to pay damages to Dürer and was allowed to continue with the copies, but he wasn’t authorized to use Dürer’s signature anymore.
The intellectual property law has been much refined since then. In fact, it is so complex at the moment that many people find themselves confused. So here are a couple of intellectual property concerns that we plan to address in this article to make it easier for you to understand the law.
You are talented, love a certain song and want to share it with the world. This is fantastic, but you still need to respect the law. Firstly, you need to have a mechanical license from the copyright holder. This license allows you to record a cover of a certain song, but it only refers to covers made for private use. This means that you can create a CD and listen to yourself singing all day long if you want, but you cannot share it publicly. To do that, you will need a synchronization license from the copyright holder, and they don’t have to give it to you. The good news is that YouTube has already negotiated with some publishers for synchronization licenses, so you just have to check with them and find out if they have such a license for your cover. If not, well, you can always try to contact the publisher and negotiate this license by yourself.
However, all of the above does not necessarily apply to parody covers. In the 1980s, a rap group created a parody of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman and, even though the label that owned the rights for Orbison’s melody objected, the rap group included this song in their 1989 album. They were sued for copyright infringement by the label, and the case went as far as to the Supreme Court. What happened is that the final decision was in favor of the rap group. The judge at that time decided that parody does not try to conceal its source but, on the contrary, relies on the tension between the known original and its parody version.
In a famous case that happened a couple of years ago, Marvel and DC sent a cease and desist letter to Cup O’Java Studios for using the word “superheroes” in the title of one of their works. Yes, in case you didn’t know it, Marvel and DC hold the trademark on the word “superhero”. It may not be ethically ok for them to own this trademark, but it is within their legal rights to stop other publishers from using the word “superhero” in the title. This doesn’t mean that you cannot write a story about superheroes or use this word within the story. But since the title of the work is part of its marketing process and is strongly linked to the sale of the work, you can’t use this word in the title, not if you don’t feel like dealing with their lawyers.
And since we are talking about selling and stories, this brings us to the topic of fan fiction. While there is still a hot debate around this topic, one thing is certain. You cannot sell fan fiction unless we are talking about parody. Parody is considered criticism, and it is protected by the US laws. But if you create a fan fiction Games of Thrones story that does not involve dragons suffering from PMS, you cannot sell it. But can you make it public? It depends. There are four factors to take into consideration, according to the intellectual property law: its purpose and character of use, the nature of the original work, the amount of the portion used in relation to the original work, and its effect upon the potential market for the value of the original work. Now, if you don’t profit economically from it and your story is transformative (meaning that its characters behave in ways they would never behave in the original story), you are abiding by the law of intellectual property. But you need to keep in mind that the laws change when it comes to unpublished work. For example, if you publish an ending to the Song of Ice and Fire series, you may get into trouble. Martin may be a slow writer, but his work is protected by law and, even if you have your own idea about Jon Snow’s and Danny’s fates, you will have to wait until the author publishes his last two books. Yes, we get this might mean you’ll have to wait for a decade, but the law is law.
It is always a good idea to contact a lawyer before deciding to share your fan fiction work with the world or when you believe you have received an unjust cease and desist letter. For more information about dealing with a cease and desist letter, call the best Annapolis attorney at (443) 569-3950 or send us an email at [email protected]