By Alan Graner
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The information below is of a general nature. For definitive answers consult a copyright attorney.
Everyone knows what a copyright violation is, right?. You copy someone’s story or song or brand and pass it off as your own.
If only it were that simple. Consider:
Sony Pictures was sued for violating copyright by the literary estate of Nobel laureate William Faulkner. It seems a character in the studio’s Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” quoted a line from Requiem for a Nun without the estate’s permission.
In a separate case they also sued Northrop Grumman Corp. and The Washington Post Co. for using a Faulkner quote in an ad—again, without permission.
Remember George Harrison’s #1 hit “My Sweet Lord”? So did Bright Tunes, which claimed the ex-Beatle stole the melody from The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine.” Harrison was found guilty of subconscious plagiarism.
How about doing a little magic trick such as cutting leaves and petals off a rose’s shadow. If you like that illusion, Dutch magician Gerard Bakardy will sell it to you for only $3,000. Well, he used to. Unfortunately for Bakardy, Teller (of Penn & Teller magic fame) copyrighted the illusion and sued him. Bakardy was forced to cease and desist.
Let’s play violate copyright at work
The boss wants a quick summary of Guatemala’s economy. No problem, you think. Just go to Guatemala’s website and copy the information there. Right? Wrong!
Think that photo of Marilyn Monroe standing over a subway grate and holding down her dress would look great on your blog? Guess what?.
Find a great chart from a news source that perfectly illustrates your main point in your PowerPoint presentation? Guess what?
Wouldn’t your YouTube video sound really dynamic with the theme music from “Star Wars” playing in the background? Then be prepared for the wrath of George Lucas (and now Disney Corp.) to crush you into the asphalt for copyright infringement.
Do you feel lucky, punk?
In reality, chances are pretty good you won’t get caught if you steal the Marilyn Monroe photo or use the “Star Wars” theme or copy William Faulkner for non-commercial use.
If you are caught, be prepared to pay a hefty fee for usage rights. We’re talking hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars for illegally using copyrighted material.
Still feel lucky?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business public relations and marketing content firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.