1. shakespear57
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    shakespear57 Member

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    Can ideas posted here be stolen?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by shakespear57, Aug 7, 2012.

    I am writing the draft of a novel, my first, and I wondered if I posted my idea on here, would it be able to be stolen by other people? If I needed help with something and then gave the whole background story, would it be a bad idea? Would people be likely to steal it?
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure what you mean by "stolen" - you can't copyright ideas, and most ideas have been used hundreds of times already. How you develop (write) that idea - that's different.

    That said - I think it's safe to say that most writers here (and elsewhere) have more than enough ideas already without "stealing" someone else's.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas can't be stolen, because you have no real claim on them. Ideas are not protected under copyright law, and even a patent has limits on how much control you have over the patented idea.

    Now if your expression of an idea is stolen, you can file suit for copyright violation. You own the expression of the idea from the moment you complete it in some tangible form. All your revisions of that expression are protected as well. That expression can be a story or poem, or a painting, photograph, or sculpture, or a televised or recorded speech, etc. To prosecute for copyright infringement (in the US), you must register the copyright. However, you can do so any time prior to filing a complaint to the court, even years after the piece of writing was completed.

    The idea itself is essentially worthless anyway. No two writers will express the same idea in precisely the same way. That expression both solidifies and sharpens the idea into a more or less durable form.

    Most posted writing, to be brutally honest, is not worth stealing. Also, discovery is too likely, the potential profit is too small, and the permanent cost to the thief's reputation is far too high.
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    The idea itself isn't copyrighted. Consider the ideas in my head:

    A historical mystery featuring a blind orphaned kid.
    A sci-fi featuring a female captain of a starship.
    A fantasy featuring a warrior, an assassin, a pub owner, and the fight for freedom against an evil empress who has enslaved an entire race.

    You can literally think of trillions of possibilities and combinations with those three story ideas alone.

    Plus, unless you're published, I'm not sure if you really do have copyrights on your own idea. I mean, in my fantasy, I have a horned cat race (who are, naturally, the enslaved race). If I find out that someone had already done the whole horned cat race thing, it'd blow, but what can I do? Besides, it's not like I can't just make up a new race and get used to that. I haven't published anything about my own horned cat race, so, theoretically anyone can freely take them and use it as their own.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you post your idea on the internet, anyone can take it, and if the idea is rather detailed (ie. not just a simple one-sentence premise but some plot twists and characters and maybe an ending included) an uninspired writer just might find it worth stealing.
    Obviously, no two people will ever end up writing the exact same novel, but the end result might have similar (or same) elements and that is reason enough why I never post my ideas on the net.
     
  6. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    I think many people are still pre-21st century paranoid about the internet. If a person uses basic common sense, like not posting your bank account details to the nice Nigerian prince in need of money, the internet is a relatively safe place.

    That being said, the internet makes it incredibly easy to track people who steal your work, using a simple tool such as WriteCheck can find all the websites, books and articles that use the exact same wording as you did. Ideas can always be stolen, do you think bill gates invented the first Microsoft OS on his own?, did Edison invent the light bulb?, the answer to both is no. Many before them did, Edison and Gates simply expanded on the ideas of others.

    The safety of work cannot be guaranteed, ever. If a determined person wants to take your work, they will, whether it be simply copy/paste of the internet, or borrowing your book from a library and using OCR software on it. That being said, we're not here to take your ideas or your story. As soon as you post the background story it is copyrighted to you(assuming your in Australia under the Copyright Act(1968). The only caveat is that anyone from around the world can access your work on the internet, and it is very difficult to enforce Copyright laws on a global scale as each country has its own laws and your work is not automatically copyrighted internationally.

    I would go ahead and post the idea, most likely if your not a seasoned writer, the feedback your going to get will far outweigh the chance that someone will want to steal your work. It will make your piece much better and give you perspective on what a prospective audience would think.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well...I did post my colonial mystery ideas on a good few other writing forums. Scenes, an excerpt from half of the first chapter, but that was it. Everything else was on here.

    Oh my...I think I dug a hole for myself about that one. :/ Well...at least ideas aren't copyrighted, even though someone may be using my take on the idea right now...
     
  8. MarkArellius
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    MarkArellius Member

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    I think creativity works in a ''Take and Develop'' system.
    We need other peoples ideas to continue, 1 idea can be inspires by another, but then another can take that idea give it a smal twist and then it would be his/her idea.
    Idea's live forever, like the example in the movie ''V for Vendetta'', they can kill or destroy V, but the idea of blowing up parliment can remain for millenia to come.

    I'm reading Bukowski's work for the first time and his ideas and writing inpsire me, I might write something like it and people could relate to it, but it still would be my idea, not his...I guess...
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shakespear, as a novice writer, it's normal to be concerned about someone stealing your work. You are putting a great deal of emotional and physical energy into creating your first 'masterpiece' and, with dreams of grandeur and a best-selling novel, you worry that some unscrupulous agent, editor, or would-be writer might be so enamoured of your work that they will take your diligently crafted manuscript and make it their own.

    The truth is, however, that most of our first works are not nearly as great as we believe they are and most writers, agents, editors have more than enough to do keeping up with their own work and have little to gain by surreptitiously latching onto your ms. That is not to say your work is not first rate. Not having read it, I am, obviously, in no position to judge and I am not egotistical enough to assume I am qualified to do so, at any rate. Bear in mind, however, that agents and editors have nothing to gain by not giving you credit for your work should they deem it publication worthy. Rather, they have a lot to lose should you discover their subterfuge and can prove they had access to your work in order to steal it.

    As far as other writers are concerned, no one can write the way you do. You are the only one who can tell your story with the fullness that you envision. You presumably have a full-bodied, fully realized concept of your story in yor mind, if not on paper or in your computer. Lots of people may be laboring at this moment over similar ideas but ... no one else can tell your story. that is yours alone. So the only question that remains is, can you tell it well enough to entice an agent to want to represent you and secure a publisher to want to pay for the privilege of publishing it. And that is what you need to focus on. And that is why there are writers' forums such as this to help you realize your ambition.

    Of course, bear in mind, you do not want to be publishing large tracts of your work on an open, publicly accessible forum. Not for fear of someone stealing your work but because posting too much of a manuscript on a public forum may qualify as publication and many publishing houses, particularly those who work in e-publishing, will not want to handle a previously published work. It's just a matter of protecting your publishing rights.

    So, at this point, what you want to do is focus on honing your writing craft. Lean on others who may have more expertise in one area or another. Be available to others who may be able to draw on your expertise (critiquing others' work is one of the best ways to learn about your own, btw). And work on creating the most publishable story you can. Believe me. We all have enough to worry about without chasing ghosts in the shadows.

    And finally ... You've chosen a very difficult but eminently rewarding career. Good Luck!
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    link... did you not read cog's rundown on the copyright laws right above your own post?... he makes clear the fact [as have some others here] that no ideas can be copyrighted, period... only the completed works based on those ideas can be...
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hey, at least you didn't accidentally send the entire first draft of your first novel to a complete stranger whom you've only met once =_=;

    Yes. I'm a moron. I think it should be ok but there's a nagging fear inside me, but what can be done now? It's in that girl's inbox and even if I ask her to delete the file, what proof can I get that she's done it? I think it's really gonna be ok, particularly because it's not at publishable quality yet, the version I sent her, but I just can't shake the nagging doubt. Let's just hope I get it published soon...... (at the editing stage right now)
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, at least you didn't take the only copy of your most awesome story and gave it to a friend and told him that nobody is to lay eyes on it except for him, at which point he proceeded to burn it and then you had no story left :eek:
    It's very funny now but at a time, I was just speechless for months :D

    On the bright side, you have nothing to worry about because you have the log trail in your computer and it is relatively easy to prove these days that something was written by you (computer records, speech pattern analysis etc have all been used in court many times, and are relatively quick and easy to do). Best of luck with the book!
     
  13. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I think, beyond anything else here, the other side of the issue is that if someone does steal something of content that is copyrightable, the fact that you have it posted on a website from your account, with a date and time stamp on the post, and proof that it is your account (password), would serve as evidence that it was yours.

    However, as others have said, there are really very few if any new ideas.

    If you're really worried about it, but want to get feedback on your writing, then write a fanfiction for practice. Since they can't be published for money anyway, it doesn't matter if someone steals it.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think much of this suggestion. With a fanfic, you are using someone else's settings and characters to a greater or lesser degree, so any writing problems with your character/setting development won't be addressed as well as if you create your own story from scratch.
     
  15. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Fan fic definitely isn't a good way to practice. Like Cog said, you're using someone else's ideas. Create your own idea and practice with it. First draft's getting leaked out sometimes isn't a big deal, and other times it's "accidentally" right to the bank aka David Weber's "accidental release" of the next to last Honor Harrington book. Baen took that idea and charged people 9.99 to buy the "first draft." So sometimes it doesn't necessarily hurt to have a first draft out there because scenes will change, even whole endings change.

    However, I wouldn't recommend letting someone see anything past your first draft.

    Best of luck, and work hard!
     
  16. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    I had this question a while back. Simple answer is "YES", if you post something original or innovative, there is a really good chance you will see repeats, alterations, or even improvements to that idea. It's unavoidable. That fact that it's not copyrightable merely means you can't hold anyone accountable for the theft. You'd have a better chance drinking stones.

    If you want your idea to be corresponded to you in some way, you'll have to keep it to yourself until you publish. Even then, that only works if you become famous enough to be recognized for it.
     
  17. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Exactly, how many stories are there out there now about spies who don't remember who they are, or what they were. Most of them, especially in the sci fi realm came from Phillip K. Dick's story "We'll Remember it for you Wholesale," which is the basis for "Total Recall," both 1990 and 2012 versions.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    jazz and ec...
    computer dates can be easily faked and are not admissible in court as far as i know... the only really sure [admissible] way to prove you wrote something is to save all your first notes/jottings of the idea for the piece, along with the first draft and a couple of subsequent ones that have your handwritten editing notes on them, to show the progression from the germ of an idea to polished final draft...

    and fyi, the 'poor man's copyright' [mailing it to yourself] isn't admissible in us courts, either... though it may have some standing in the uk...
     
  19. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    I don't even post my story ideas on here, for the most part. I am very protective of my work.
     
  20. jamezb3
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    jamezb3 New Member

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    I was thinking about this a wee while ago too. If I posted a chapter of my story and found it elsewhere it would be heartbreaking.
     
  21. fwc577
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    fwc577 Member

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    There once was a man named Joe Quirk. This man created a novel called The Ultimate Rush. His novel was about a messenger in San Francisco who delivered packages on rollerblades. He recieved a mysterious package one day that had illegal information and soon found himself hunted by dirty cops and the mob and his girlfriend was in danger. All over this package.

    Joe Quirk's novel did decent. A movie studio even optioned the rights but nothing ever came of it. He wrote a few other books but never really hit fame and fortune in his writing. A few years later someone who edited an initial draft of his work emailed him congratulations. His editor friend lived in the New York area and a block near his house had been closed down for the shooting of a big budget Hollywood movie.

    The name of this movie? Premium Rush. The story? A bike messenger in New York happens upon a package that contains sensitive/illegal information and he is mercilessly hunted by corrupt cops and the chinese mob. This package puts his girlfriend in danger. All over this package.

    Joe Quirk was surprised. Joe Quirk was surprised because he had never heard of this movie.

    Joe Quirk then managed to do some sluething and get an original copy of the script and it contained even more similarities to his book than those outlined above.

    Joe Quirk sued.

    It doesn't really matter whether you post your work here or publish your work the chances of it stolen really aren't going to increase or decrease.
     

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