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When is Inspiration Actually Copyright Infringement?
By: Cindy Wendland
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“A jury awarded Marvin Gaye's children nearly $7.4 million this week after determining singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied their father's music to create "Blurred Lines," the biggest hit song of 2013.” Gaye’s children believed the two artists copied the Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give It Up Tonight” while Williams said he wrote the song in about an hour. Did they copy the song or were they inspired by the style?

They say copying is the purest form of flattery. Still, most people don’t like to be copied. Our teenage daughters don’t like it when someone dresses the same as them. We’re not fond of a neighbor down the street copying our landscape plan. These are all minor nuisances. In the business world, copying becomes expensive when copyright infringement is proven.

A local department store is said to send product managers to look at styles in New York, then return home and modify a few details to create their private label clothing. Is that inspiration or copying? It’s hard to keep your hard work and creativity under wraps and not allow someone else to borrow elements of it. Sometimes the copy is so close as to have taken no effort to change anything. That is lazy and downright wrong.

Inspiration is tricky. It’s like plagiarism in a paper. To truly use inspiration, take it in, stir it up, and mix it with your own thoughts and ideas. Then come out with something unique and flavored from your experience that gives tribute to the inspiration. Yes, that is idealistic. In reality, if you create your own product or idea uniquely, copyright issues won’t be a problem.


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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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