Can I Copyright Someone Else’s Work?

Can I Copyright Someone Else’s Work?

Information About Intellectual Property Infringement That You Need to Know

Scaringi Law Attorney Samantha C. Wolfe

Creative minds often draw inspiration from existing works of art. However, while producing a piece that is overly derivative of another artist’s design is a known faux pas, many wonder how the consequences would differ if that original artwork was not copyrighted. Could the discoverer even go so far as to copyright the material as their own?

Fortunately for artists, only the creator, or someone with the creator’s permission, can copyright their intellectual property.

What if I Change Elements?

You simply cannot copyright another’s intellectual property, even if you embellish it with your own personal touches. Any copyright must be claimed by the owner or someone with their permission.

How Can I Get Permission to Copyright Someone’s Intellectual Property?

The only way to get permission to copyright someone else’s work is to ask the creator directly. Before inquiring, you should ensure that there is in fact no existing copyright for the piece. If you are unsure whether one already exists, you can search through files in person at the Copyright Office or online.

The Copyright Office’s records provide information on all registrations, renewals, and transfers of ownership of copyrights. Self-conducted searches are free of charge, and can be used to find information from 1978 on. If you’re seeking information from before 1978, you must search in person or request the Copyright Office do so for a fee.

If the work is not copyrighted, you can go ahead and reach out to the artist. If you are unsure of the creator’s identity, you could try consulting art historians or creative communities for more information.

While not everyone will copyright their strokes of creative genius, they nonetheless retain the legal rights to them. Admirers cannot stake a claim in another creator’s intellectual property unless they receive the author's permission.

For more information on copyright and intellectual property laws, contact Scaringi Law online or at (717) 775-7195.

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