1. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    A question on copyright

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by radnommandess, Jan 13, 2013.

    A friend of mine has told me I risk copyright imfringement because one of the characters in my novel is regularly refered to as The Dr. He say's because the character travels through time and space solving problems combined with being reffered to as the Dr is a little bit to close to a well known tv character. The fact is he is a Dr, so to me it feels right to address him as such especially as the main character has difficulty getting his head round the Dr's christian name. Hence regularly refering to him as the Dr. What are peoples thoughts?
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know what tv character you're referencing, so right off the bat I'm not certain it would be an infringement, although if there are other similarities and it is obvious that the character is based on this other famous character, there could be an issue. However, "The Doctor" is a pretty generic term and those are not copyright-able. I don't believe there would be a problem at least in the United States, but you'd want to do some further investigation, because I can't speak to the way things are in Scotland.

    There may be other specifics in your situation that might make your character so close to the television character that there could be a claim, but just the fact that he's called "the doctor" and he travels through time isn't enough.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    "The Doctor" can't be copyrighted because a) it's too generic and b) one can't copyright names (one trademarks them). However, your story does sound a little too close to Dr Who, quite honestly, and while there may not be legal issues (INAL), you would most likely have a hard time getting it published. Even self-publishing it could earn you a less than stellar reputation - ie, rip-off. Does the character have to be a doctor? Changing that could be simple and get rid of most, if not all raised eyebrows.
     
  4. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    The tv character i refer to is Dr Who. He travels through time and space sorting out the universes problems and is called the Dr. My character travels through time and space fixing the universes problems and is reffered to as the Dr. My friend reckons because of the similarities combined with being reffered to as the Dr is why it becomes a bit closer than just using the term the Dr. There are no similarity's in personality but they both do almost the same thing albeit in very different styles. Though the tv character has so many incarnations each with different personalies and styles. He reckons it could be said I have written another incarnation of their character.
     
  5. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    Yes he has to be a doctor he is a doctor of reality and this fact is important to the story. He is not the main character. The main reason for regular use of the term th Dr is the main character can not get his head around his christian name. The dr in the story mainly does the calculations needed to work out what needs done to iron out the paradoxes that could result in the destruction of reality. Also the calculations of where and when they need to be. The main character Joe actually does the work to fix the problems. The travelling through time and space is done by the crew in the engine rooms. Some of whom are important characters in the story. The story is actually the subtle interplay between Joes mental paradox or possible psychosis and the logical paradox's they all go through in order to prevent the fabric of reality from collapsing. Most of the story is told through Joe who is a councillor and is told through his councilling session and interactions with the Dr, his secretary and the engine room team.
     
  6. notnancydrew
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    notnancydrew New Member

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    I don't think there's any problem with having a character who happens to be a doctor, who happens to solve problems, who happens to travel through space and time, but I don't think you'll get away with calling him "The Doctor." As others have noted, you may not be able to copyright the term, but "Doctor Who" is an incredibly popular program and people will resist reading something that copies it. I don't think you've helped yourself any by the way you've described it to us--the similarities are so blatant, I was waiting for you to say that your character's mode of transport is a police call box. If your readers are able to make that comparison, so will the BBC's legal team.

    What can you do? Make stylistic choices that prevent your readers from making that connection. "Doctor Who" is a silly science fiction show with elements of action, drama, and horror. Your story should not be written in that same vein. Watch an episode of the show if you're not familiar with it, and decide if your story is, in fact, too similar.
     
  7. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    The only similarities are the ones I have described I think you have answered my question and put my mind at ease. There is no similarity whatsoever in the style. I have been concentrating on the similarities here because they are the worry. My work is far fetched fiction/comedy. It is only the main character who refers to him as the Dr and it is only when reffering to him. When addressing him he uses the Dr's name. If anyone actually reads the content they will find no other similarities other than, I have a character character who happens to be a doctor, who happens to solve problems, who happens to travel through space and time and is sometimes reffered to as the Dr by the main character. This purely because he has difficulty with his christian name and I show this fact quite well throughout the narrative. The dr character couldn't be further from Dr who because my character is an eccentric, sherry swilling, spliff smoking elderly toff who may or may not be using the power of illusion and hypnotism to decieve the main character Joe. They may not travel through space and time it could be a clever ruse played on joe by the Dr and his secretary. The Dr may also not exist and merely be the product of a drug induced psychosis on the part of Joe. This is the eternal paradox of Joe throughout the story.
     
  8. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    The only similarities are the ones I have described I think you have answered my question and put my mind at ease. There is no similarity whatsoever in the style. I have been concentrating on the similarities here because they are the worry. My work is far fetched fiction/comedy. It is only the main character who refers to him as the Dr and it is only when reffering to him. When addressing him he uses the Dr's name. If anyone actually reads the content they will find no other similarities other than, I have a character character who happens to be a doctor, who happens to solve problems, who happens to travel through space and time and is sometimes reffered to as the Dr by the main character. This purely because he has difficulty with his christian name and I show this fact quite well throughout the narrative. The dr character couldn't be further from Dr who because my character is an eccentric, sherry swilling, spliff smoking elderly toff who may or may not be using the power of illusion and hypnotism to decieve the main character Joe. They may not travel through space and time it could be a clever ruse played on joe by the Dr and his secretary. The Dr may also not exist and merely be the product of a drug induced psychosis on the part of Joe. This is the eternal paradox of Joe throughout the story.
     
  9. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    here are Two examples showing Joes confusion that leads to refering to him as the Dr.

    I just thought god these guy’s are nuts one insists his first name is Mr and the other changes his every time you leave the room and it seems to always begin with D, at least it’s entertaining. Not to mention the free beer and pot.


    “ my eye test" I reminded him.
    “ah yes, care for a sherry Joe before we start"
    “don’t mind if I do er Mr....."
    “do call me Mr Darman if it’s easier I’ve noticed it’s quite difficult for people round these parts to get their heads round the idea of someone being called Mr"
    I decided to humour him further “no I’m sure I can cope with calling you Mr if that’s your name"
    “quite what’s existence without a name eh?" and on that enigmatic note he poured 2 sherries into as many glasses. Marked it on his ration sheet then passed one to me and drank from the other.
     
  10. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Still sounds too close for comfort. Couldn't you call him The Professor? Or just Proff.?

    I think you're really on a sticky wicket.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree...

    and you'll have to learn how to write dialog properly, too... sentences of dialog must be capitalized, for one thing...
     
  12. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    Mama Yes I know i havent finished going through for punctuation grammar etc.

    Evelon he is a Dr not a proffesor I tried reading some of the scenes through replacing the term the Dr with the Doc doesn't quite sound the same but I may have to make that change.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "The Doctor" is not copyrightable. However, it could very well be trademarked. Characters and settings often are, especially in popular TV and movie franchises. It certainly is not a good idea to "borrow" a popular character in this manner, regardless of specific legal liability.
     
  14. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Sorry, your friend is right. As someone who grew up with Dr Who, I would immediately think "rip-off" if I saw someone who travelled through time referred to as "the Doctor", or "the Dr.". No doctor in real life is called "The Doctor" (unless they are making reference to Dr Who). If you are a doctor you are called "a doctor". Even is situations where there is just one doctor (on a ship, etc) you would be called "doc", "quack" etc.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I sense some strong resistance - you're basically being told the same thing your friend told you. Is this guy a medical doctor? It doesn't sound like it. Why couldn't Joe just call him "Professor" as a sort of nickname?

    I still think you're way too close to Dr Who and its premise. As I said, legal questions aside, readers are going to pick up on it, and not in a good way.
     
  16. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    He is not called The doctor he is called Mr. His full title is Dr Mr Darman. It is when Joe refers to Mr he sometimes says the Dr. I'm sure it is not uncommon to refer to a doctor as the Dr. I have read many stories where a character say's The Dr said x,y,z. Or I'm worried about the Dr. Everyone calls him by his name which is Mr. It is only in passing reference that the term the Dr is used. Usually to confirm Joes problem getting his head round the fact he is called Mr, but it seems I may have to replace it with the doc. Which sounds a bit too Americanised for me saying the Doc said x,y,z or I wish the doc would make up his mind etc.
     
  17. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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  18. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    I didn't borrow a character I hadn't even noticed the problem until it was pointed out sometimes the main character will say things like the Dr told me to tell you x,y,z. I the same sense If he was a baker and you couldn't get your head round his name you would say the baker told me.

    but it does seem I will have to change it to the doc
     
  19. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Personally, I'd want to change it for peace of mind if nothing else - there has to be an alternative, whether it's his surname, Sir, or whatever. I would personally steer clear of using Doc too given the time travelling element, but I'm pretty cautious :)
     
  20. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    Sir said x,y,z doesn't scan. Neither does I will have to consult with sir. The whole thing is set in a private psychiatric clinic where Joe is a councillor and Mr is a Dr. As well as being a mental health Doctor Mr is a doctor of reality. Does anyone have any other suggestions If The doc is still to close?

    I understand the problems as regards to copyright or seeming to copy/borrow from Doctor who, but I can not think of a term that fits to references like I need to see the Dr. You will have to make an appointment to see the Dr, The Dr know's best or I wish the Dr would make up his mind. All of which would be acceptable if he did not manipulate time and space. Replacing the Dr with sir or the proffessor does not work in these instances and like I said when talking to him his first name is always used. Dr is his official title and Job description. So now my question is what words or phrases could I use to get around the problem?
     
  21. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    I apologise if I come across as being stubborn about this whole issue.
     
  22. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Having a character saying - "you'll have to see the doctor" isn't really the problem here. The problem (or potential problem) arises because the whole thing is too suggestive of an existing programme. If you call one of the main characters The Dr. and he behaves in any way similarly to Dr. Who, which from what you've said, he does, then you could hit a few snags. And I don't mean by that that you can't say, "the doctor will see you now". But if you use The Dr. as a name of this character, you could run into problems.
     
  23. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    You should be stubborn if you're defending your ideas and your way of doing things. But along with the stubborness (that's not even a word!) you need to stand back and look closely at your work with a very critical eye.
    If your friend had issues with The Dr. and some people here have issues with it, then you can bet that there is a problem. It's just that you haven't seen it yet.

    Look at from the point of view of the Dr. Who team and imagine what would be going through their mind.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just remember, you are the one who asked the question. If you don't like the answers, is it because you've already formed an opinion and are looking for someone to back you up?
     
  25. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    How about Mr. Doctor? Or Doctor Mister?
     

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