Copyright Protection of Derivative Works

online copyright registration

They are works that are based on another piece of work that has already been protected by intellectual property rights (copyright). An earlier effort informs or inspires the new work. The law of intellectual property protects a variety of creative works, including derivative works. Let’s imagine that you are an innovative individual (of any kind) who is inspired by another (copyrighted) work to create something entirely new. Does your fresh creation qualify for copyright protection? 

If you own the copyright to a project, you already own the copyright to any derivative works made from it. In order to avoid violating an original work’s intellectual property laws, you should proceed with caution when merging someone else’s work into your own. Let’s take a closer look at derivative works.

The definition of a derivative work is as follows:

 Unlike most ambiguous notions, this can be answered. Practically, navigating intellectual property infringement risks can be challenging due to muddy waters. Do we have to worry about stumbling into gray areas of copyright law when creating derivative and transformational works, and where are those gray areas located?

A derivative work is a tangible representation of a unique, formerly copyrighted work. Previously copyright-protected components are incorporated into it. A ‘derivative work’ refers to a work that incorporates portions from the ‘original work’, ‘underlying work’ or ‘parent work’

Intellectual property rights may protect non-unique works and collections of pieces based on formerly existing ones. As a result, the original copyright is restricted to the original materials of the collection or the derived work.

What are the situations where it may be applicable? 

It is likely that the word “Derivative Work” has come up in your conversations with others in the past, even if you are not a professional writer, artist, or just interested in copyright law. This is a common phrase among most people. There is, however, a limited understanding of its actual meaning and legal significance. You must determine whether or not something is an original work or a derivative work before filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement. 

Original Work Protection and Copyright Law

We accept original creative work in a variety of forms, including, but not limited to:

  • Nonfiction and fiction literary works.
  • A sound recording is a type of recording.
  • The lyrics and scores of a composition of music.
  • Dramatic works such as plays and theatre often use music.
  • All motion pictures, whether viewed in theaters, on TV, or online, are motion pictures.
  • To name a few examples, visual artworks include paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

Global Copyright Law and Intellectual Property Conventions: Do They Protect Derivative Works? 

There is a yes to this question. There is a widespread misconception that derivative works do not even qualify for copyright protection. There’s something wrong with this.

Without permission from the creator or by using a positive defence such as fair use, it is illegal to breach or violate the usage of a derivative work. There are many types of piracy committed on social networking platforms, content-hosting websites, or blogs without the creator’s permission in order to publish or revise the original work of a creator (including fanfiction and fanart). View things that include derivative works on social websites without a license authorizing these purposes, especially if they generate revenue. 

Work in the Public Domain 

It is common for copyright protection to expire over time. There may be a time limit on the online copyright registration. In the public domain, a work becomes free to be used when the copyright protection on the original work expires. A publically available work can therefore be used by anyone. 

Making specific changes to something already in the public domain results in a derivative work, which is protected by copyright law. After you alter the original work, others will no longer be able to use it in the public domain. 

Copyright Exceptions 

Neither the original work nor derivative works are protected by copyright in their entirety. The fair use doctrine has a few exceptions, including the following:

  • Parodies:  The term “parody” refers to the modification of an original piece of work in order to criticize or mock it. By parodying well-known tunes and songs from the past, weird Al Yankovic has established a successful career. A few painters have also stolen works by renowned artists and altered them in a lighthearted manner. It’s important not to confuse parody with satire.
  • Reviews: Using brief passages from the book under consideration is acceptable when writing a book review. Song titles and lyrics may also be included in a review of a musical album.
  • Works of a Scholarly Nature: If the author obtains permission, he or she may use tiny elements of a copyrighted work in their work. 

In contrast, a derivative work is a screenplay, which is protected by its copyright for its distinctive components, such as any new discourse or performance orders for a play scene. It is, however, protected by its copyright because it is a cinematic work rather than a textual work, which covers aspects of the film that were not included in the text and were unique to it. Copyright protects, for example, the distinctive agreement between the director and the film crew for a film shot. 


It would depend entirely on the circumstances and facts of a given instance to determine whether or not an individual’s use of copyrighted material is ‘fair’. There is a slight difference between ‘fair dealing’ and infringement of intellectual property rights. To be safe, it’s recommended to obtain permission from the original copyright owners or seek expert legal assistance. 

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