1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Reference to H. P. Lovecraft

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by marcusl, Aug 1, 2009.

    H.P. Lovecraft invented the Cthulhu Mythos. You know, Shub-Niggurath, etc.

    Many writers have paid tribute to Lovecraft's creations. I'm wondering how this works - aren't they copyrighted? It's the same thing with Tolkien's inventions.

    If I wrote a story where I made a direct reference to, say, Cthulhu, would that be acceptable? I would love to have this cleared up.

    Thanks very much.
     
  2. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Ya, everything written by Lovecraft is in the public domain now (the call of cthulthu expired in april, 2008, thank god). You can reference him, put him in your work, go crazy : D!
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The copyright rules change once in a while, but usually works are in the public domain between 70 - 120 years after the author's death. For example, everything before 1923 is now in the public domain according to the US copyright laws.
     
  4. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    While I don't like his works, he does seem to have been an early proponent of copyleft and all that. All his friends thought his ideas were good, and they wanted to write in the Mythos as well, so they did, and he wrote based on their ideas as well. He even wrote part of a trilogy based on someone else's work based on his own Mythos.

    I will say, while I think his writing is bad, he did have interesting ideas about horror.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Reference to his work is one thing. Including excerpts of his work is quite anotger matter. If you quote his writing, you at least must fully identify the source of the quoted material. I don't know the state of his copyright, but you might need written permission from whomever currently holds the copyright.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    If it is in the public domain, you can flat out rip it off, can't you?
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's in the public domain that only means you don't have to ask permission to quote from it... you still have to cite the source and it sure doesn't mean you can claim another's work as your own!
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    So I couldn't write a story with Cthulhu in it?

    People write stories with creatures that Tolkein invented without giving him any credit.
     
  9. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    You can write a Cthulhu story no problem, but if you were to lift actual text directly from a Lovecraft story, you'd have to cite it.
     
  10. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Every story should have Cthulhu in it.
     
  11. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    IANAL, but a few Google searches tell us:

    If a work is in the public domain, it can be used without permission. So if "The Call of Cthulhu" is now in the public domain due to expired copyright, there are no legal restrictions over it. You can reprint the work (say, on paper or on a web page) without asking permission or paying money. Why? Because no one who owns it -- it belongs to the public. (In fact, you could even sell it.)

    http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/copyright/publicdomain.html
    http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter8/
    http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_article_plagiarism_faq.html

    You are free to include some or all of a public domain work in your own work, but you still have to cite the source. Not because it's copyright infringement -- public domain work isn't protected by copyright -- but because it's plagiarism. What legal penalties public domain plagiarism carries I cannot say, but you'd be kicked out of academia and the publishing industry would probably do the same.

    It seems there is some debate as to which works of Lovecraft are actually in the public domain and if anyone tried to publish them, Arkham House might have something to say about it, as I believe they still hold a copyright claim over the works. Regardless, many authors freely borrow from the Cthulhu mythos -- that's one of the great things about it. Lots of people have written stories that feature or discuss Cthulhu, the Old Gods, and the Necronomicon. (I refer you to Army of Darkness.) Tolkien's work, on the other hand, is still protected (or actually, re-protected) so you'd best not be writing a story with Gandolf or Samwise unless you're doing it as a satire.

    Slightly off topic, I found this page on false copyright claims quite interesting, especially the part about the NFL's false claim they run at the beginning of every game. "No part of this broadcast can be used without the NFL's consent...."

    http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/false-copyright-claims.html

    Oh, and Ph'nglui mglw'nafh C'thulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
     
  12. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    W00t!
     
  13. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    Damn it!

    *Rumpole starts spray painting the sign of the Elder Gods on the forum walls*


    I'm gonna be tentacles everywhere if I don't.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And the stage after that is tentacular cancer...
     

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