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Asked & Answered: Original vs. Adapted works

Q: “When is a work ‘Original', and when is it an ‘adaptation'?”

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2 Responses to Asked & Answered: Original vs. Adapted works

  1. Thanks for the post Gordon. As ways, it was informative and appreciated. I have always considered the phrase ‘original work’ as troubling. Is any story or plot, or character for that matter, ‘original’? I have written many screenplays but with a bit of research I am sure that someone could find enough similarities between my screenplay and a previous work (novel, movie, play, poem, fable, song) to deem my work as ‘adapted’ or ‘inspired by.’ Thoughts?

    • There’s a saying that there are only about 12 original stories, and everything else is derivative… but I think it’s OK to riff on material from the public-domain… the issue really comes up only when your work is based on something protected under copyright.

      Mere similarities won’t give rise to liability for copyright infringement. The threshhold is “substantial similarity”. A few common points or elements isn’t enough. (Unless there’s very compelling proof of “access” to the purported original work). Together, Access and Substantial Similarity combine to support a finding of “copying”.

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