Did someone infringe on my copyrighted work?

Just because someone creates something similar to your work, does not necessarily mean they've infringed on your creative rights. So how do you prove copyright infringement?

Did someone infringe on my copyrighted work?

Proving infringement requires proving three things:

  1. Ownership of Copyright
  2. Access to the original
  3. Infringement outside of Exceptions.
In plain English, you must be able to prove that you own the copyright in the original work, that the potential infringer had access to it (after all, you can’t prove they copied yours, unless they saw it themselves) and that what they’ve done is outside of permissible uses.

An artist once asked me whether it’s an infringement of his copyright for his teacher to hold up his beautiful, original work as an example in class, and for new students to create similar works. For our artist, proving 1 and 2 (Ownership and Access) are easy and indisputable, but the law allows for limited use of copyrighted works for educational settings.

So yes, it’s a bit annoying that other people are practicing their craft using his work, but it’s probably not infringement. If he’s unhappy, the artist can talk to the teacher and ask them to refrain from using his work as an example.

It’s long been known that imitation of the masters is part of learning your craft, especially in the arts, but if someone is using your work outside of permissible exceptions of research, study, criticism, review and reporting, education and libraries according to the Copyright Act (1994) and especially if they are exploiting it financially, it might be time to seek legal advice.

Are you interested in finding out how copyright applies to you?

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Written by Karen Workman, Kaiwhakahaere Whakapa | Creative Rights Educator

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