Derivatives of a Work

Another interesting aspect of copyright law is that characters, fictional locations, unique names or similar aspects of a copyrighted work usually remain the exclusive property of the copyright owner. This falls under the concept that copyright owners also have exclusive right to the derivatives of their work. A derivative work without authorization is usually considered a copyright infringement. As an example, a third party could not create a brand new gangster movie and call the head of the crime family Don Vito Corleone and have his lawyer called Tom Hagen. Corleone and Hagen were of course characters in Mario Puzo’s, “The Godfather,” and so those characters are owned by Puzo (or perhaps now owned by his heirs or a company or studio to whom he sold the copyright).

Note: if you’re curious why Web Defense Systems can legally use the name Don Vito Corleone and Tom Hagen in the above paragraph even though a story could not be created about them, read the document, “Fair Use in Copyright Law.”

Disclaimer: The purpose of our “Knowledge Base” documents is to explain the basics of the subject matter in question and to provide some rationale behind the actions that Web Defense Systems might take on behalf of our clients. We are not lawyers, and the preceding information should not be used in lieu of legal advice.