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The Inspiring Life and Work of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez

Back of woman on a stage with purple lighting. Text reads, "The Inspiring Life and Work of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez; Copyright: Creativity at Work blog post."In the fall of 2001, I spent a week in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I had the pleasure of encountering a local music festival. Because I had a free afternoon, I decided to listen to several bands who played one after another on the small stage. One of the local groups, played a style of music that I knew little about and had little exposure to until then: Tejano. Tejano music covers various forms of folk and popular music by the Mexican-American populations of Central and Southern Texas. Soon after I returned home, I began to see and hear more about Tejano and about the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who was murdered tragically in 1995 at the age of 23. I quickly learned how influential she was to Tejano musicians and other artists around the world. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I will scratch the surface of those inspired by Selena’s life and work.

The creation of new works inspired by a person’s life and derivative works based on other creative works is part of the natural copyright lifecycle. Think about your favorite artist’s influences, and it’s easy to see how this process works. A person takes in what they experience and uses that to create works that go on to inspire others to create their own works. Selena brought to life dozens of songs registered in our Copyright Catalog. She transformed the then male-dominated Tejano style by adding R&B and pop sounds, which broadened its appeal beyond the traditional audience of the time. Therefore, it’s no surprise that she influenced others as one of the top Latin artists of the 1990s, according to Billboard.

Where can we find her mark? To name a few subjects:

  • Music – Recording artists like Becky G, Ivy Queen, Solange, and Jennifer Lopez have performed their own covers of Selena’s work. Other artists clearly acknowledge her influence, such as Beyoncé, who as a young girl met Selena in a mall, and Selena Gomez, who was named after the Tejano star.
  • TV and Movies – Speaking of Jennifer Lopez, it’s impossible to talk about Selena without mentioning the 1997 biopic staring Lopez. This part is often cited as her breakout role. Among the other biographical dramas of her life is Netflix’s Selena: The Series, which completed its two-season run in 2021.
  • Visual and Literary Works – Others have been inspired by Selena to draw, paint, or take pictures. Michael Frizell and Ramon Salas recently released a biographical comic book, Female Force: Selena, to illustrate how Selena changed the world.

These and other examples demonstrate how one creative can influence many more decades after their passing. Does Selena inspire you to create your own works? Visit our What Musicians Need to Know about Copyright and Engage Your Creativity pages for more info on how to protect your work. Also, if you need resources in Spanish to use or share with others, we have a page with links to publications and frequently asked questions ready for you.

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The following is a guest post by Annette James, a program coordinator at the U.S. Copyright Office. As I reflect upon the 2021 Black History Month theme, The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity, the word family captures a wealth of emotions. It calls up memories of childhood and retrospection on lessons learned. It brings […]

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The Roaring Twenties Welcome Artificial Intelligence: How Will It All Play Out?

The music industry in the 1920s was forever changed with the introduction of the radio. Radio enabled music dissemination at an unprecedented rate and allowed live performers to reach millions of people at home, thereby fundamentally altering pre-existing business models. In the 2020s, one hundred years later, the industry is yet again facing a potentially industry-changing new technology. This time, however, it is the force of artificial intelligence (AI) that will transform the way in which business models and the music creation processes work.

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The Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act

 The following is a guest post by Regan A. Smith, General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights. “When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.” Plato, the Republic Book IV (Jowett tr.) Following unanimous votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate, today the President signed the […]