Do you wonder whether the copyright change 10 percent rule is a myth?

In the intricate labyrinth of copyright laws and its interpretations, there’s one persistent myth that seems to have embedded itself in popular consciousness: the “Copyright Change 10 Percent Rule.”

The belief, quite simply, is that making a 10 percent change to a copyrighted work will magically steer one clear of trademark infringement.

But where did this notion come from? And is there any truth to it? Whether you’re an artist, a creator, a copyright owner, or just a curious soul, unraveling the veracity behind this widely-circulated belief is crucial in today’s digital age.

Join us as we delve deep into the origins, implications, and reality of the “10 Percent Rule” and uncover whether it’s a protective shield or a misleading myth.

What is Copyright Change 10 Percent Rule for the Infringer?

The “10 Percent Rule” is a commonly held but mistaken belief regarding trademark law.

According to this myth, making a 10 percent change to a copyrighted work—whether it’s a book, a piece of music, artwork, or any other creative product.

Somehow makes the derivative work exempt from trademark infringement claims. In other words, if someone were to modify an original work by just 10 percent, the resulting product would be considered “new” or “original” and, therefore, would not violate copyright laws.

However, it’s important to emphasise a few key points about this supposed rule:

No Legal Basis: There is no provision in the U.S. copyright law (or in the trademark laws of most other countries) that quantifies infringement based on a specific percentage of change.

Copyright infringement is typically evaluated based on the substantial similarity between the original work and the alleged infringing work, among other factors.

Quality Over Quantity: It’s the nature and quality of the copied material, not the quantity, that determines infringement.

For instance, copying a small but highly recognisable and original part of a work could still constitute infringement.

Subjectivity of “10 Percent”: Even if we were to entertain the idea of the rule, the challenge would be defining what “10 percent” really means.

In a novel, is it 10 percent of the words? The plot? The characters? In a painting, is it 10 percent of the canvas, the colors, or the elements? The ambiguity makes the rule untenable.

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Potential for Harm: Relying on this myth can lead to legal troubles for creators.

Taking someone else’s work and making slight changes in the hope that it falls under the “10 percent” myth can lead to trademark infringement lawsuits.

Is 10 Percent Copyright Rule a Myth?

Yes, the “10 Percent Copyright Rule” is a myth.

The misconception suggests that if you change 10 percent of a copyrighted work, it will be enough to avoid trademark infringement.

However, there’s no basis for this belief in actual copyright law. Here’s why:

  1. Lack of Legal Support: No section of the U.S. copyright law (or the trademark laws of most other countries) supports the notion of a specific percentage change making a derivative work non-infringing.
  2. Substantial Similarity: Trademark infringement is generally based on a “substantial similarity” test, where the focus is on whether the ordinary observer would recognise the alleged infringing work as being taken from the copyrighted work. It’s not about specific percentages.
  3. Quality Over Quantity: The essence of what is copied matters more than the quantity. For example, copying a short but very distinctive and essential part of a work can still be considered infringement.
  4. Ambiguity: The concept of “10 percent” is inherently vague. In different media (music, literature, art, etc.), how do you definitively measure this supposed 10 percent?

Relying on the “10 Percent Rule” can lead creators into legal trouble. It’s always wise to consult with copyright professionals or attorneys to gain clarity on any trademark-related matters instead of banking on myths.


In the vast realm of intellectual property and copyright law, myths can sometimes overshadow reality, leading to misconceptions that could have dire consequences for unsuspecting creators.

The “Copyright Change 10 Percent Rule” is one such enduring myth.

Despite its widespread mention and belief, it finds no footing in actual trademark statutes.

The very essence of trademark law revolves around the copyright protection of originality and creativity, not arbitrary percentages.

To believe that a mere 10 percent change absolves one from infringement is not just an oversimplification but a perilous misunderstanding.

For anyone navigating the creative world, it’s crucial to base decisions on authentic legal principles rather than myths.

In the end, it’s clear: the “10 Percent Rule” is a myth, and relying on it could lead one astray in the intricate dance of trademark.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the “Copyright Change 10 Percent Rule”?

The “10 Percent Rule” is a widely believed myth suggesting that if you change 10 percent of a copyrighted work, it will no longer be considered copyright infringement.

However, this belief has no basis in actual trademark law.

Is the “Copyright 10 Percent Rule” recognised in U.S. copyright law or any other international copyright laws?

No, the “10 Percent Rule” is not recognised or supported in U.S. copyright law or in the trademark laws of most other countries.

Copyright infringement is typically assessed based on “substantial similarity” and other factors, not specific percentages of change.

Can I avoid copyright infringement by making minor changes to an original work?

 Not necessarily. The key consideration is whether the new work is substantially similar to the copyrighted work and whether the elements taken are original and protected. Even minor but significant copying can constitute infringement.

How can I legally use or adapt someone else’s copyrighted work?

To legally use or adapt someone else’s copyrighted work, you typically need to obtain permission or a license from the copyright holder.

There are exceptions, like “fair use” in U.S. copyright law, which allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes like criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

If the “Copyright Change 10 Percent Rule” is a myth, how can I ensure I don’t infringe on someone’s copyright?

It’s always wise to consult with legal professionals when you’re considering using copyrighted material.

They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Additionally, always give credit where it’s due, seek permissions, or use content that is in the public domain or available under open licenses like Creative Commons.