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CREATe Working Paper: Copying, Creativity and Copyright

Posted on    by CREATe Team
Media BriefingsWorking papers

CREATe Working Paper: Copying, Creativity and Copyright

By 2 February 2016No Comments

Ronan Deazley of Queen’s University Belfast and Bartolomeo Meletti, CREATe researcher and Lead Producer of introduce their CREATe Working Paper entitled ‘Copying, Creativity and Copyright‘.

Copying and creativity are often presented in antithetical terms: if you are copying you are not being creative, and vice versa. And within the context of copyright law, copying is often conflated with concepts like theft, piracy and immorality: to copy is to attack creators trying to make a living from their work. But in truth, copying can be and often is creative. The creative process thrives upon practices of adaptation, imitation and borrowing, and copyright should and does accommodate those creative practices. The short animated film The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair – which on 12 November 2015 won the AHRC Research in Film Award for Innovation in Film – provides a practical example of how copyright enables and encourages many forms of lawful, creative copying. In less than four minutes, the film includes over 80 instances of the lawful reuse of and reference to well-known copyright and public domain works, as well as factual information and recent copyright litigation.

Copying, Creativity and Copyright – by Professor Ronan Deazley (Queen’s University Belfast) and CREATe researcher Bartolomeo Meletti – offers insights into the creative process behind their award-winning film The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair, and makes the case for understanding copying as a positive phenomenon in helping us learn and innovate, develop and engage with others. Copying plays a crucial role at all stages of our development as human beings, from DNA replication to the way in which physical synchronicity helps us establish connections and relationships with friends and family, and beyond. Copying can also facilitate freedom of expression and political engagement, by enabling people and communities across the globe come together and speak with one voice. Consider, for example the global response to the killings in Paris at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine on 7 January 2015. Three simple words – Je Suis Charlie – have been copied (creatively and otherwise) and re-copied millions of times all over the world to commemorate those who lost their lives during that attack. This is copying as remembrance, free speech, solidarity and protest.

Copying, Creativity and Copyright will become part of the educational resource The Game is On!, a series of short animated films offered by that puts copyright under the magnifying glass of Sherlock Holmes, illustrating concepts of remix, reuse and the public domain for school-aged learners and other creative users of copyright. The first episode of the series – The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair – comes accompanied by 12 Case Files, supplementary educational materials providing points of discussion about copyright for UK teachers and students. Among other things, this paper consolidates and complements the approach to copyright education adopted by the Copyright User initiative: students should always be encouraged to appreciate their creative potential, and copyright education should always be concerned with helping them understand what they can do, not what they can’t.



Copyright User ( is an independent online resource established in 2014 that makes UK copyright law more accessible to creators, media professionals, students and the general public.

For details of the AHRC Research in Film Award for Innovation in Film see:

Ronan Deazley is Professor of Copyright Law at Queen’s University Belfast and the General Editor of Copyright User.

Bartolomeo Meletti is a CREATe researcher and Lead Producer of Copyright User.