CopyCat: Flattery or Infringement?

Social media is one of the best places to showcase your talent, right? What better way to entice your audience and bring in new business than to visually showcase your creations?  Problem is…when you do that with other people’s pictures (cue Naughty by Nature’s “O.P.P.”) you’re actually committing copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement is definitely a thing.

Intellectual property is definitely a thing.  Copyright, trademark and patent are all designed to protect your creations, whether they be music, books, brand names, logos or inventions.

These days, you can find damn near everything on the Internet.  Moreover, it has become ridiculously easy to screen shot almost anything and use it as you wish.  In a world where creations are so easily accessible, it comes as no surprise that people often forget – or don’t even know – that those images, that slogan, or that song that you lifted is someone’s intellectual property.

Much like real property (land, houses, buildings, etc.) that has clear ownership and rights that the owner can enjoy, intellectual property operates similarly.  Lifting someone’s creation and either using it for your own purposes or passing it off as your own creation is like someone trespassing onto your property and breaking into your house.

Social media makes copyright infringement super easy.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about their images – original photos they took or original images that they created – were used by someone else, without their permission, on party flyers, merchandise or pieces of artwork.  And the sad part is that the infringing party (the person using the original image without permission) usually thinks that they’ve done nothing wrong.  Frustrating, to say the least.

Just last week social media was abuzz with comments and posts about a private chef who was allegedly using photos of dishes from well-known restaurants and passing them off as his own creations.  In comparing the chef’s posts to posts on the timelines of these restaurants, they were identical.

I know quite a few chefs and let me tell you that creating a delicious meal that’s also appealing to the eyes is not as simple as it looks.  A lot of time, effort, energy and creativity goes into creating a meal and making it look like a masterpiece. You develop the recipe, make the meal and then plate it and take pictures – pictures used to garner new business.

What exactly is copyright infringement?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher.

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another person’s work or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense, which is copyright infringement.

Most cases of infringement can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source is may be enough to prevent plagiarism.  Sometimes, more action, like asking the author for their permission to use the work, is required.

The bottom line.

Using an image, video or piece of music in a work you have produced without receiving proper permission or providing appropriate credit to the author its copyright infringement.

This post is not, in any way shape or form, a substitute for legal counsel.  For information and advice on a specific matter, or for more information on copyright infringement, seek counsel from a knowledgeable attorney or click here to schedule a consultation.

Follow Me

Melissa Bernier

Principal and Managing Attorney at Bernier Legal, LLC
New York City-based entertainment, fashion and business attorney with over ten years of experience.Talent manager, entrepreneur and public speaker.
Follow Me

Latest posts by Melissa Bernier (see all)

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe To Our Mailing List!

Subscribe to our mailing list for additional news, information, extras, freebies and some wonderful surprises!  We promise to never spam you!

You have Successfully Subscribed!