1. Taillin
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    Taillin Member

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    When is it stealing?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Taillin, Aug 2, 2014.

    When is an idea for a story or a universe considered (or should be considered) to be stolen. I have an idea for a story that is heavily influenced by other IP and authors.

    A specific example would be an idea for a sci-fi story following a human scientist to experience and study the interactions of soldiers who are in fact clones of each other in the field (battlefield, off-duty etc.)

    Now obviously there are huge parallels from the above story and many things in the star wars: clone wars cannon.

    The above idea isn't my actual idea but its an old idea I had and a one that I thought was well thought out, but I dropped it because of the likeness.

    This happens with a lot of my writing ideas, I don't think i'm alone but is this because I just don't have good ideas, or is my creative process flat?

    also, do you guys consider it stealing?
     
  2. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I don't think Lucas owns the rights to clones, war, or war with clones. You should be fine, just don't give the scientist a laser sword and telekinesis.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ideas are not copyrightable, and the general idea of "clone soldiers" has, I'm pretty sure, been used in other works. I don't see an issue, as long as you take the idea in your own direction.
     
  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, it would not be theft.
     
  5. Taillin
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    Taillin Member

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    Thanks for the answers so far guys!
     
  6. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    Why are you having a problem thinking up stories? Here is a little trick:
    When you see, hear, read, or whatever...ask this question, "What if?"
    Your mind will explode with ideas. If it doesn't, your smoking some bad stuff.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You give the strangest advice.
     
  8. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is wrong. Taillin is not having a problem thinking of a story, just a concern that some nutjob out there might consider the story to be theft and that this nutjob (or greedy sociopath) might have a good lawyer. I cannot blame anyone for having this concern, considering that said nutjobs/sociopaths often run frivolous copyright lawsuits and are rewarded by the government. People who write stories are forced to play a legal game that is unfairly rigged in favor of people who have already written stories, or the descendants of people who have already written stories, or companies that have acquired the rights to said stories. Playing this game is an uncomfortable experience. (You want to know what is really theft? Theft is not writing about cloned soldiers. Theft is suing someone who writes about cloned soldiers and receiving a settlement or damages.)

    Taillin, if it is any comfort, then I can assure you that not only is there absolutely nothing wrong with writing a story about cloned soldiers, but the idea is not nearly specific enough for 20th Century Fox to notice it, let alone for even the most unreasonable judge to side with them.

    If you like the idea of your story about cloned soldiers better than you like your other story ideas, and if you think that people will enjoy it more, then you will contribute more to society and to your own wallet by writing about cloned soldiers than by writing about anything else. You are not out of good ideas and your creative process is not flat. If you abandon a good story because you do not think that it is creative enough, then you are not doing yourself or your potential readers any favors.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
  9. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    Daemon,
    He who is his own Lawyer, has a fool for a client.
    I would never give legal advice because I'm not a Layer. Nor would I ever take legal advice from one who is not.
    I was not suggesting he clone, or not clone a story. I was only suggesting how he could make up his own.
    If you believe you have an issue you think may cause you legal problems, go talk to an attorney...not some unseen person on your computer.
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    The guy's just worried about potential plagiarism. Totally natural. If I wrote a story about a kid who could control water, I'd be a little worried it sounded too much like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Hell, for the longest time, I was afraid that merely by putting cat-people in my fantasy, I was ripping off of The Elder Scrolls until I found out that cat-people are a common thing in fantasy and sci-fi.

    Taillin, rest assured that Lucas doesn't have claim on clones, clones at war, or wars in general. That would be very absurd if he did. There is a healthy plethora of stories out there involving clones and clones fighting each other. The fact that they're clones don't matter. What matters is your own interpretation of clones. Have fun! :D By the way, I love your username. Very The Last Airbender-ish. You from the Earth Kingdom?? ;)
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think the Star Wars universe has dealt with the issue of cloned soldiers so completely that there is nothing left to say about the subject. I'd say if you have new ideas about how cloning an army got started, and where it leads ...go for it.

    I'd say avoid any obvious parallels though, and definitely don't share names with any other known work. "Stormtroopers" should never be mentioned. Nor should "Clone Wars." Don't have these clones dress in white armour. Don't have them serve an Emperor. Don't create a bunch of warrior wizards who believe in a 'Force.' No Luke, Leia, Darth, ObiWan or Han. In other words, don't directly copy anything out of Star Wars. You should be fine.

    It's not so much what you start with it's where you take this idea that's going to determine how much of a copy it is.

    And, like @domenic.p suggested, if you are in any doubt (AFTER you have finished writing—no point in worrying about a nebulous idea still mostly floating in your head) about whether your story is sue-able, do consult a lawyer. But you've got a long way to go before you hit that barrier.

    Good luck. Cloning for nefarious purposes is one of the things people have always mentioned when objecting to the idea of cloning. I think you've got a lot of space to work with here, before your universe parallels George Lucas's enough for him to want to sue you!

    Hey, if you're old enough and have the MS copies to prove it, you could sue HIM for stealing YOUR idea...! What a payoff THAT would be, eh? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
  12. Nothingness
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    Nothingness Active Member

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    At title:

    When you get caught.
     
  13. Empty Bird
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    Empty Bird Member

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    I don 't think it works as stealing, anyway. Stealing is the direct taking of an idea- no changes, no nothing other than that.

    But really, who can ever claim to write something that is truly truly original? I believe that every writer takes ideas from absolutely everywhere. So you like that idea. That's great! Now, it's just bouncing off of it. You've used it as a springboard and now you want to create your own thing!

    Besides, absolutely every incredible structure or manmade creation in the world is taken from something in nature, so you have no need to worry.

    Sorry if I'm on the completely wrong page to you!
     
  14. Empty Bird
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    Empty Bird Member

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    Ha! Made me laugh...
     
  15. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    Some of the best writing in the English language, ever, did not use original ideas. Shakespeare did only covers of stories other people had already told. The characters and plots of his plays are largely borrowed from established tradition. Yet the meat he put on the skeleta of those plots and character sketches made him widely regarded as the best English-language writer of all time for quite a long time. Maybe he still is. Many academics seem to think so.

    People have come up with ideas so mindblowingly unusual and intriguing that the ideas themselves have been commercially sensitive and not to be shared with anyone. Even then, however, what matters is how the ideas are implemented. The proof is always in the execution.

    Very often a brilliant idea is a tweak on an existing idea that changes it in subtle but crucial ways. For example, eschatology has existed ever since the Bible predicted Judgment Day, and the advent of the Cold War led to an explosion in eschatological fiction typically called post-apocalyptic. Tens of thousands of novels described what it's like to survive the end of the world, and quite a few also narrated what life was like before the world ended. But a 2011 film called _4:44: Last Day on Earth_ and then, in 2012, the first volume of Ben Winters' _Last Policeman_ trilogy put a totally new spin on post-apocalyptic fiction: what if the end of the world were absolute and nothing could possibly survive, and what if the coming of that end were undoubtably known in advance? Both the movie and Winters' trilogy talk about what it's like for the whole world to know that all life on earth will soon be permanently gone. It's just amazing to watch and read, even though, in many ways, the idea is not that much different from the tens of thousands of post-apocalyptic fiction clones.

    tl;dr don't get obsessed with ideas. If you find your mind trapped within the boundaries of popular culture, try tweaking something about that culture and seeing what the results turn out to be.
     
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