Transformative Works

A transformative work is a type of derivative work, not just a copy; it creates something new by repurposing, recontextualizing and/or changing parts or all of the work from which it borrows.

By creating something new, a transformative work accomplishes the stated goal of U.S. copyright law, as stated in the Constitution, "to promote progress of science and the useful arts." Because of that, transformative works pass the fair use first factor test (nature and character of the use) with flying colors. 

Examples of transformative works that have been accepted by the courts:

  • resizing a band's concert posters to put them in a historical timeline in a book about the band
  • inserting short clips from newscasts into a biographical documentary.

Transformative works that have not yet been adequately tested by the courts (they may or may not be found sufficiently transformative to qualify as fair use):

  • music-video mash-ups
  • sampling in music
  • fan fiction and fan art.

Transformative Works Resources

If you're interested in this topic, you'll want to watch these two features about transformative works and remix culture: