Inspired by another’s work? Beware of copyright infringement

Glenn W. Peterson

In today’s world, copyright infringement has become a serious challenge. If you are a budding writer, artist or musician you may be inspired by those who have traveled the path before you, but you need to be careful that you don’t cross over into infringement of copyright. At Millstone Peterson & Watts LLP, we see many cases of copyright infringement, and we know that the innocent claim does not always hold up in court.

One way that you can get into trouble is through plagiarism. You probably understand that plagiarism is the taking of someone’s written content and presenting it as your own but it is actually much more than that. According to, you could be found guilty of copyright infringement if you cited the source but still presented the information in a way that is identical to the source. For example, perhaps you are writing about a medical disease and you are citing a study conducted on a treatment option. You name your source in the content, but then you use the same order as the original source. In the eyes of the law, this can be a violation of fair use laws and you could be found guilty of plagiarism.

If you author a fictional work that is inspired by another published work, you need to make sure that your content is still original. There are many writers who may write a novel that piggybacks off of a more famous novel. However, the ideas and story line, while connecting to the original novel, must still be unique enough to avoid allegations of copyright infringement. For more information about using other people’s works, please visit our web page.