1. Sulla
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    Sulla Member

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    Copyrighting stories and ideas

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sulla, Sep 13, 2012.

    I'm not 100% sure this is the right forum for this. Hopefully the mod who reads this will be forgiving.

    Is anyone here familiar with copyright laws (U.S.)?

    I intend on putting a story online. It will be a free story, but I don't want to give my characters, story idea, etc away for free.

    I'm not sure what the copyright process is. Should I copyright the story before it's done?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas cannot be copyrighted. The EXPRESSION of an idea in a durable medium is copyrighted as soon as a durable draft has been completed.

    Smoke signals or skywriting would not be copyrighted. If someone photographed it, the photo would be copyrighted. The words would not, because the photographer didn't create them, and the creator did not express it in a durable medium.

    (Durability is very loosely defined, however, and you may not actually find it in copyright law. Proof of copyright requires some degree of durability, as a practical matter)
     
  3. Sulla
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    Sulla Member

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    Isn't a story an idea? I mean, if I re-wrote Harry Potter but just changed the names wouldn't I get sued?

    If I am writing a story and putting it online should I copyright anything? Shouldn't the characters be copyrighted so I can use them in the future?
     
  4. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    There must be some protection for characters and settings, otherwise FanFiction wouldn't be in the legal position it is.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The idea is not the story. Here's an idea: a tragic love story in which the two lovers are from groups that hate each other. That can't be copyrighted. Two stories that used that idea are "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story", both of which are copyrighted and neither of which would be mistaken for the other.

    Yes, if you re-wrote Harry Potter and changed the names, you would get sued. Not because you stole the idea, but because you actually stole the story (and changing character names doesn't change that fact).

    Mammamaia has, on more than one occasion, posted a link to a site that will tell you everything you need to know about copyright laws (short of contacting an attorney in the field). A search should turn up the thread with the link.

    Good luck.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    www.copyright.gov [for copyright laws/info]
    www.uspto.gov [for patent and trademark laws/info]

    everyone who wants to be a writer should familiarize themselves with the laws from the get-go...

    sulla...
    what cog is saying is that as soon as you complete any piece of writing [does not mean just writing down an idea for one], it is automatically copyrighted... all that is done after that is to register the already existing copyright, but that's done for you by your publisher, if you have one... you can do it yourself, for $35 at the library of congress' site linked above, but should not do so till you publish it... there's no need to do so unless it's a song or a screenplay, in which case most pros do so at wga, the writers union...
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Characters and fictional locations can be trademarked. This is very common with characters and locations in TV and movies, as well as comic books. It's somewhat less common with novels, but still done at times.

    Trademarks are NOT automatic, in contrast with copyrights. Each trademark request must be filed with the court and a decision rendered, and a certain amount of research is required, at law office rates.
     
  8. SuttonMichael254
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    SuttonMichael254 Active Member

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    ...... Damn man..... i hate that you make soooooooo much sense ALL the time :)
     

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