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Hamilton and the LawReading Today's Most Contentious Legal Issues through the Hit Musical$
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Lisa A. Tucker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501752216

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501752216.001.0001

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“Every Action’s an Act of Creation”

“Every Action’s an Act of Creation”

Hamilton and Copyright Law

(p.193) 26 “Every Action’s an Act of Creation”
Hamilton and the Law

Rebecca Tushnet

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores how Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical is one transformative work in an ongoing chain of many such works. Looking at the musical as a product of multiple influences and an influence on future works can help one see how copyright, for good or ill, influences this cultural progression. In copyright law, a transformative work is a new creative work that takes significant expressive elements from a specific prior work and adds a new purpose, meaning, or message to that prior work. This category is important because transformative works are likely to be fair uses, which means that they do not require the permission of the owner of the copyright in the prior work. Ultimately, Hamilton can be identified as Real Person Fiction, which takes existing historical or current public figures and uses them as characters in new stories, with more or less variation from the characters' factual, public personae. It remakes and transforms history, asserting ownership of that history for people who have long been excluded from the dominant narrative. That same kind of reversal — from audience to creator, from abject to in control — provides the pleasure and power of all kinds of fan fiction.

Keywords:   Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton, transformative work, musical, copyright, copyright law, creative work, Real Person Fiction, fan fiction

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