1. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Character Theft??

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Bravocube, Sep 2, 2017.

    So here's the deal. Basically I have used characters I'm going to use in my books in my role-plays for fun. I basically want to know if that's risky or dangerous in any way. I've been told a few times by people that if they aren't copyrighted, someone can steal my characters and my story and make profit of it unless I have an official copyright. I don't think this is the case.

    Isn't intellectual property rights, documents and pictures I have of my characters proof enough I made it first, and enough to protect my content if someone were to try? I feel like it would be absurd if my creating them suddenly doesn't count just because they aren't officially copyrighted/trademarked.

    I personally have never heard of something like that happening ever and might just be a fear based thing thats the status of: "Fan-fiction is dangerous! Remember Marion Zimmer Bradly!?"

    What do you guys think?
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Top of the buzzing to you. :) Supporter Contributor

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  3. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    @Cave Troll has the right idea. You should look at the laws, and understand that copyright registration offers an extra layer of protection for your intellectual property. I'd also recommend you carefully read the Terms of Service for any website where you've roleplayed a character or used that character in any way. Some sites or MMO games have it set up where the character is actually considered the property of the site or game company. It always pays to read the Terms of Service carefully for something like that.

    Then again, there's nothing that keeps me from roleplaying a character I like. I can go on World of Warcraft and create a character named Harry Potter, and there's not much anyone can do about it. The crux of the issue is often monetary gain. If I steal your character's name or likeness and gain something financially from that in some way, then that's where having copyright protection allows you to hit me back for stealing your property. Some laws protect intellectual property even when there isn't monetary gain. The FBI or Interpol warning at the start of every home DVD or Blu-ray says that infringement of any kind, including without monetary gain, is punishable.

    If you're looking to be published through a company, some of them will dislike it if your story's content is available on a blog or somesuch. Andy Weir started The Martian on a blog, but it's not available for free on a blog anymore since it's been published as a book. If you do any kind of traditional publishing, a lot of the publishing houses won't smile on the idea of your first chapter or whatever being available for free. Others won't care as much. as Cave Troll suggested, an IP lawyer might help you best in that regard. I'm not an IP lawyer (or a legal expert of any kind), so take everything I say with a quarry of salt.

    Edited to Add: My example of Harry Potter on World of Warcraft was just that--an example. Blizzard actually has limitations on character names, so you couldn't really use Harry Potter. There are people who occasionally get around that, though, and some characters just aren't popular enough to be on Blizzard's "you can't name your character that" radar. Other character names, like Mario, are common enough in the real world that Blizzard can't block them.

    That having been said, there's not much you can do to defend against some intellectual property theft. I saw a movie that was a complete ripoff of "Hitman," down to a slow-motion scene with "Ave Maria" over it. Such a thing falls under "homage," which is its own fun corner of IP law. That's how some people get away with selling "Rollex" watches. "It's not brand theft, it's homage."
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
  4. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Huh. Well noted. Thank you!
     
  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You can't really copyright an idea though - it only applies to written text. That said te chances of anyone stealing your character and then pulling off wiriting your idea are vanishingly small .... someone who has to stoop to stealing ideas rather than making their own is distinctly unlikely to be able to write a whole book anyway
     
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  6. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I can't imagine the person who is creative enough to come up with a publishable story, but not creative enough to imagine their own characters.

    Besides, on an abstract level, every character there could ever be has already been written so there will always be similarities. Was JK Rawling reading JRR Tolkein when she came up with Harry Potter? Or does he just happen to be a lot like Bilbo Baggins?

    Also, basing a character off of another copyrighted character is not a problem. Peter Benchley's Quint, is not as well defined as Spielberg's. Quint is Captain Ahab and Benchley seems completely unapologetic in that. The shark even killed his the same way Moby Dick did.
     
  7. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Yeah that's what I thought anyway, in all honesty.
     
  8. Gadock

    Gadock Active Member

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    I don't think you should worry too much to begin with. I saw the same question yesterday, but people will always steal. Without being able to give any impirical data, 90% of the time this happens unintentionally. Haven't you ever come up with this great idea, just to see the exact same thing already used elsewhere? Don't fuss about it, write what you want to write and other people use your idea than you can only take it as compliment.
     
  9. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere...

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    You know, if I were a thief looking to steal some work and try to pass off on my own, I wouldn't steal yours. No offense, I just wouldn't. There are tons of stories from the 1930's and such that are really good, but never garnered the attention of mainstream and quite frankly the copyright already ran out. Why would I steal a few character outlines (not even a story, for pete's sake) from you, of all people, an unproven author with no success to your name, instead of some pulp fiction story? Just answer that one for me. Tell me what I would actually gain from stealing from you as opposed to someone who has some success, but has been largely forgotten?

    I could tell you all about my most well developed character, Ingrid Helmsheim, and you can steal it. But I can promise when it comes to putting her into any of your stories, you won't even come close to nailing the character. Sure, the name will be the same. The back story will be the same. The genre will be the same. But you'll still fail. Hell, you'll even succeed in making just as an amazing of a character, but you won't make that character. Because what you don't have is the actual story itself. You don't have the setting that I built that I use to explain this character's personality and background. You don't have any of the other characters who helped make her who she is. And finally, you're not me.

    So, chill. Don't worry about it.
     
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Exactly. If I was going to steal anything from you, I'd at least wait for you to have a decent first draft for me. And even then with the editing. Pheh! Ain't worth it, yo.
     
  11. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    While I agree, I don't think its impossible. A writer looking for inspiration might be browsing a forum and see a character name, and think it's really neat and wants to use it for their own character. I would still argue, "Why can't you be creative and come up with a different name for your character?", but this may be a fledgling author, who hasn't really explored the legalities of copyright. It doesn't make the act any less wrong, I was just pointing out that it's a possible scenario, however unlikely.
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Thing is even if they did , it won't be the same character, and since you can't copyright an idea (unless its well known enough to be a trademark like mickey mouse) ... you couldnt sue them anyway
     
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  13. Clementine_Danger

    Clementine_Danger Active Member

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    I have this curious but ultimately harmless little idée-fixe that chewing on the ends of pencils might give me lead poisoning. I think your worry is on just about that level of likelihood and rationality.
     
  14. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    It isn't my worry really, it's something people around me have told. I was just curious as all and wanted to bring it to the forum for discussion as all! These replies are very helpful! Thank you very much!
     
  15. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    You're right. I'm just saying that it's entirely a possibiliity, however unlikely. If any of us writers are lucky (or unlucky depending on your values) enough to require a trademark for our characters, due to popularity, then that would be the answer in and of itself. I think it comes down to a character's defining traits within the context of a story, and the commonality of the name(s) being used. You wouldn't be able to trademark a name like "John Smith", no matter how popular or dominant the character becomes in pop culture. I feel bad for all of the real Harry Potters of the world who don't have the luxury of a common name.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1221925/The-real-life-Harry-Potter-reveals-sharing-wizards-life-misery.html
     

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