The Case of the Installation That Drew Blood


An installation and performance art by a theatre group drew the ire of an author, whose work inspired the director.

Author: My story gives your work its meaning
Director: Nah! My work is entirely new. It may give new meaning to your work.
Author: Right. So what's my name doing in the credits?
Director: Just an acknowledgement of your influence…I shall no longer use your name.


Do you require permission to perform work that is inspired by a copyrighted work? Permission is not required when copyrighted work acts as an inspiration for the performance.

Will incorrect attribution lead to legal action? Yes, the author can initiate legal action when work that he has not created is wrongly attributed to him.

What is transformative work? Transformative work is original work using existing expression as an input into the creative process. The work will embody elements of the original work. It is the value added to the original work by adding new information, aesthetics, insights and understandings.

Also read Sections 14 and 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957

Best Practices or Quick, Tell Me How to Avoid Conflict!

Recognise the source of inspiration, if installation or transformative work is inspired by a copyrighted work. Ensure wording in publicity material does not offend author, in fact, if the work is transformative, do not attribute authorship as you may offend the author by doing so. Seek the author's permission if you are only doing an adaptation of his work, in a new environment. If you're the author, check, check and check! Verify whether the performed work is substantially unchanged before claiming copyright infringement.