1. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Can I use inspiration and similarities?

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by The95Writer, Feb 15, 2014.

    I like this particular film and I want to write a series with a similar setting and similar characteristics but not actually fan fiction. I won't be taken any names or using any original creative work, it will just be based around the same time as this film but a few different stories and et cetera.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    can't say for sure without seeing what you're writing, or at least an outline, but i can say that you need to be very careful not to infringe on the film's copyright...

    you may have to consult a literary attorney with more details, to get a valid answer to your question...
     
  3. violinguy
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    violinguy Member

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    As a reader, I enjoy reading stories that are clever and original. Plots that are neither of those, I place into two categories:

    -Stories that are "like" such-and-such film/book/tv show
    -Stories that "are" such-and-such film/book/tv show

    I have little or no patience for the latter. As for the first one; if the story is well written with good characters, I'll probably enjoy it.

    VG:oops:
     
  4. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    How is what you enjoy relevant to the OP's question?
     
  5. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    So, if I write and sell a story set in Atlantic City, in which the casinos are the background no one else can?

    Be reasonable. Suppose you'd had that idea without having seen/read the original. You would have written the story.

    Your style won't be the same as that of the one who created the original, so even were you to have set the story in the same room, with the same characters it wouldn't read the same.

    I used to give my clients a scene to write. The place was the same, a place where food and drink were consumed. The situation was the same. One of two friends dares the other to ask a third character for a kiss. They had 1000 words to write, and a few more rules on the order of what I just mentioned. So the situation was even more alike than your story will be because the objective was always the same. But though the rules were the same no two stories read even remotely the same.

    If you like, when it sells, include a thank you to the original author whose story got you thinking and resulted in yours being written.
     
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  6. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    So: I write a story in which CIA agent Jack Ryan is in the conning tower of a Soviet submarine named "Red October," a Typhoon-class SSBN, with the boat's captain, Marko Ramius. I describe both characters as Tom Clancy described them in The Hunt for Red October. They are the same characters in the same "room" (conning tower).

    Are you seriously suggesting that so long as my story doesn't "read the same" as Clancy's, I am in no danger of a charge of copyright infringement?

    What planet are we on here?
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is something that I've long wondered about. If you ignore trademark violation, is there anything that would make it illegal to use the same characters and settings, down to the names, as another author? I've generally assumed that it's an "anybody can sue anybody else for anything;they've got bigger lawyers" situation, combined with the risk of trademark violation.

    Don't worry, I wouldn't make decisions based on advice that doesn't come from a lawyer that I'm paying, but as a general topic of discussion, *does* copyright offer any protection for characters, settings, situations, and so on?
     
  8. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    As a general topic of discussion, what good are the opinions of non-lawyers about highly complex issues in copyright law?
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    They can still have knowledge, and have the key phrases that I can use to do my own research. For example, in understanding why clothing designs are not copyrightable in the United States, while designs for some other fabric objects like stuffed toys are, the phrase "useful object" is handy for researching.
     
  10. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Of what use is your own research on legal questions? You said that you "wouldn't make decisions based on advice that doesn't come from a lawyer that I'm paying." You're not a lawyer. Of what value is your own legal research if you can't make decisions based on it?

    My point here is simple: On questions of law, you can't get reliable guidance from non-lawyers -- including yourself and your own research. You just can't. Your original question was, "Can I use inspiration and similarities?" That's a question about the law, and you're putting it to non-lawyers.
     
  11. violinguy
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    violinguy Member

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    Because when I read the sample on my kindle, or the blurb in the sales pitch and I see the story is exactly the same as such-and-such, I won't buy it.

    Who peed in your wheaties tonight?
     
  12. violinguy
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    violinguy Member

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    And no where in the OP was the question about law, although it was inferred. With no character names or other proper nouns the same, he can write whatever he likes. No one will buy it, and he will be considered a hack if the stories are too similar, but...
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see nothing wrong with trying to deepen my understanding of a legal topic, even if I'd go get a lawyer before making decisions based on that understanding. I still have opinions, I still vote, I still may or may not write a check to people like the EFF. All of that involves having some understanding of various legal issues, including copyright.

    You seem very upset that I want to reduce my ignorance. I really don't think that reducing it is going to hurt anything at all.
     
  14. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Well, you've certainly elevated the discussion.
     
  15. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Nor do I. My point was simply that you won't deepen your understanding of a legal topic by asking people who have no expertise on legal topics.
     
  16. violinguy
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    violinguy Member

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    Without trying to get into a flame war here, my initial response to the OP was, I thought on topic. I don't see "moderator" under your name, so I don't think it's in your purview to educate new members of this discussion group how to behave. If I took your terse response to my initial post incorrectly then I apologize. If members shouldn't respond or participate in a discussion without being scolded, then what's the point of even having discussion boards?
     
  17. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I haven't "flamed" anyone. The OP asked a question about his legal grounds if he writes a story "in a similar setting and similar characteristics" of a copyrighted film as long as he doesn't take "any names or using any original creative work, it will just be based around the same time as this film but a few different stories and et cetera."

    You responded by describing what you enjoy and what you have no patience for. I don't think it qualifies as "scolding" nor as usurping the authority of the moderators when I point out that your personal preferences aren't relevant to the OP's question about the law. Participate, by all means, but it would be helpful if you addressed the question at issue.
     
  18. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    The OP said the setting was "similar,"not the same. I said that even were the author to try to write the same characters with the same plot it wouldn't read the same.

    The "conclusion" you reached is specious, a deliberate twisting of what was said, and unconnected to the situation under discussion. A reasonably polite literary discussion would seem to mandate that you respond to the question asked, not comment on the comments.
     
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  19. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Okay, calm down now, lads.
    Thanks for all the help. A good discussion has been lifted here followed by some tension.

    To give you a better idea of what I mean without giving away my idea: I am a huge fan of a gang movie and I wanted it to be set around the same time; incorporating gangs but without copying any of the originals. But it does not copy the films plot. It will have a different set of stories (as I am to make it a series) and I do aim to include in the book, 'Special Thanks too....' or 'With inspiration...' - and whatever.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you'd be including this because you feel that it would reduce your copyright liability, I just wanted to note that it almost certainly won't--copyright law doesn't much care about giving credit. (Unless, of course, a copyright holder licenses content to you and requires that you give credit.) Credit is relevant for plagiarism, but plagiarism isn't generally a legal issue.

    And, no, I am not a lawyer. Before you actually take action and publish anything where there's the faintest breath of a possibility of a whiff of a copyright issue, of course see a lawyer.
     
  21. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Jay, I don't see where I twisted your answer. You said that even if the OP used "the same" characters as another author, the "style" would be different. You were clearly implying that this difference would put the OP in the clear regarding a potential copyright infringement.

    I think you're mistaken, and there are legal experts who agree. See here, for example, where an attorney discusses "the rather complex set of laws governing the rights in characters." He explains why "a character can exist merely by its textual description of that character. Who he or she is, what he or she looks like, the manner of behavior and other such characteristics can all be described, in writing, by the author. As such, the character may be protected under copyright law as part of the text of that work." In a previous section of the same article, he explains how literary characters can also be protected under trademark law.

    Here is another article that will give you an idea what a very tricky area of law this is.

    My point, as before, is that these legal issues are extremely complex and that if the OP has questions about them, he shouldn't to seek guidance from laymen.

    Regarding politeness, I don't think it's impolite to comment on another person's answers. Here, for example, where I answered a question about how long it takes blood to dry, GingerCoffee immediately took issue with my answer. I see this all the time in polite literary discussions. It doesn't strike me as impolite, and I certainly didn't intend any impoliteness in challenging your reply to the OP.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  22. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    While you can't copyright characters, if a character is well known to a story, it comes under copyright. A writer can't copyright a CIA agent, but Jack Ryan, CIA agent as Clancy made him, is copyrighted.
     
  23. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Because often, writers have to look into copyright issues to avoid them.

    I'm working on a scripted story that I think will easily franchise. I want to protect my work so it is in my interest to look into copyright issues.
     
  24. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Thanks, Robert. We're in agreement on that.

    I wasn't discouraging people from looking into copyright issues. My point was about where to look. Because copyright law is so complex, it's very unlikely that anyone will find reliable guidance from laymen on Internet forums.

    Even lawyers will shy away from offering advice on copyright issues if they don't practice in that area. They'll refer you, as they should, to a specialist.
     
  25. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Maybe, maybe not. Here's how one lawyer explains the intricacies of the question:
    Depending on the court and the case, Jack Ryan could land in the same limbo as Sam Spade. This illustrates the difficulty in giving pat answers to questions about copyright.
     

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