The company making GoldieBlox used a reworded version of the Beastie Boys song Girls in a sales ad. Upon being contacted by the band (presumably a direct or veiled legal threat, since the band has a strict policy of not licensing any of their songs for commercial purposes), the GoldieBlox company went to federal court to get a judge to declare preemptively that their version was a parody, and thus permitted as a fair use exception to copyright law and outside the control of the song’s original creators.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article on the matter that comes down staunchly on the GoldieBlox side, based on four main points: GoldieBlox didn’t copy more elements of the song than they needed to, they changed enough to make a legitimately new creative work, the band has already made all the money they’re going to off the original song, and no one will get the two versions confused.
The majority of the Senators and Representatives directly pushing SOPA and PIPA — bills ostensibly aimed at preventing wholesale digital copying of commercial media — had unattributed, uncompensated, copyright-infringing background images on their Twitter home pages or official campaign websites.
In 2008, artist Matthan Heiselt designed stickers for the board game Dominion that let it be played using wooden poker chips instead of its native cards. Game designer David Sirlin used Heiselt’s component choice and graphic design as a starting point for a Dominion-style game he subsequently created and sold commercially.Here are some of Matthan’s chips:
Here are some of David’s:
Sirlin admits to starting from Heiselt’s work, but when confronted with accusations of outright copying, Sirlin responded that only one of Puzzle Strike’s five chip types — Actions — bears a strong resemblance to its analogous type in the Dominion chips. The rest either don’t look like their analogs or don’t have analogs. So those aren’t copies.
And all chip designs, including the look-alike Actions, went through dozens of iterations over weeks of live playtesting. Effort went into confirming that the graphic design was good, as well as tuning it to the finest detail — effort that Heiselt probably didn’t expend when he put his layouts together originally. So even the copies aren’t just copies.
Finally the only graphical elements Sirlin claims he took from the Action chip layout were A) using an icon of a circle to represent drawing an extra chip, B) using an icon of an arrow to represent taking an extra action, and C) putting the chip’s title in a ribbon-shaped banner. The first two concepts are so basic, so obvious, that criticizing someone for using them just because Heiselt used them first is “sad”, and the third element is something that Heiselt himself copied from Dominion’s original card layout. So even the not-just-copies aren’t copies of anything that took thought, effort, skill, or originality to create in the first place.
Patents in the U.S. were originally limited to 14 years. So were copyrights. The idea in both cases was to balance two goals:
- Incentivize creators to create by making sure no one else benefits from them risking their time, money, and effort devising new ways to make things or new things to make.
- Get the general public benefiting A.S.A.P. from building off the works of others.