Famous Violations of Copyright Law

Famous Violations of Copyright Law

Jun 18

Artists definitely should be credited for and profit from their creations; it isn’t easy to come up with a snazzy tune or a thought-provoking image. Many an artist have paid for their creative zeal by dying in poverty or losing their sanity, and it would not be fair that they should not at least be acknowledged for their work.

This is the impetus behind copyright law, but claiming its protection is far from a cut-and-dried process. In music, for example, there are only 8 notes to work with, so it is natural that some works may have certain similarities. In photography, two people may unknowingly shoot the same subject in roughly similarly circumstances and publish independently. Story plots also come into their share of disputes, ranging from books to movies.  There are also cases where an artist is inspired by another artist’s work to make their own creation or builds on an existing work to create a whole new dimension for it, such as parodies i.e. the work of Weird Al Yankovic.

There are many instances when distinguishing between copyright infringement and “fair use” boils down to which side has a better lawyer.

Some of the more famous violations of copyright law illustrate these gray areas in intellectual property law. For example, did you know that the catchy Rod Stewart song “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” was based on a song by Brazilian artist Jorge Ben entitled “Taj Mahal”? Stewart claimed that there was no intention to copy the song; the melody reverberated with the singer and inadvertently leaked into the famous song. Stewart settled.

A case of questionable appropriation occurred between artist Richard Prince and photographer Patrick Cariou when Prince used Cariou’s work as the foundation for his own brand of art. Eventually, Prince won the legal battle when the judge overturned the initial verdict and declared that the changes introduced by Prince brought new meaning to the original photograph, and came under “fair use.”

Copyright law is complex, mainly because it is attempting to infuse objectivity into what is essentially a subjective discipline: art. If you think you are the next Usher, make sure that you engage the services of one of the Dallas intellectual property lawyers in your area to properly protect your rights.