Stratford, CT asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for Connecticut

Q: Poetry inspired by a show, is this a copyright/trademark issue?

I have been writing poetry inspired by a television show and I'm interested in potentially publishing them in a book. I have not used any characters' names but some poems are based on plots or perceptions within the show. I intend to use original artwork and the poems are original. I'm not sure if this would constitute infringement, whether or not I mention the show by name. I dont know if simply disclosing that I do not own the rights to the show or characters is enough if I'm still trying to sell the work.

1 Lawyer Answer
Barbara Berschler
Barbara Berschler
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD

A: Your question poses an interesting issue concerning the relationship between copyright rights and "fair use", which is a defense that can be raised to the claim of copyright infringement. Your poetry, even if inspired by the TV show, could be viewed as a "transformative" use of the underlying work and therefore a fair use. However, the ultimate test would be resolved in federal court. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides 4 factors a judge can consider when deciding whether a particular infringing use is a fair use.

In summary, the four factors are: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and the substantialness of the portion taken; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market. A judge would weigh these factors to see on which side of the scale does your use fall. For example: How much of the material from the TV show does your poetry borrow? Will your book of poetry have an economic impact on the show's developers who may want to exploit the characters, etc., in other media beside TV?

This just a partial examination to let you see there is a lot going on and authors can be very jealous of who gets to exploit their copyright rights in a work. It would be best for you to explore this project with local intellectual property counsel before going much further.

Marcos Garciaacosta agrees with this answer

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