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  1. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

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    Is this copyright infringement?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Poziga, Apr 30, 2020.

    Hey!

    I saw a funny video on Youtube, one of those 1-minute homemade videos, that inspired me to write a flash fiction. I would extend it slighty of course, add my narrative, but the story would be left practically unchanged. I was wondering if I can submit it to one of the publications or would this story be, well, illegal?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    legally probably not - ideas can't be copyrighted... course if you were to transcribe it verbatim that might be different... inspired by not copied is what you are aiming for.

    ethically its a grey area
     
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think it's a bad idea. How would you feel if someone did this to something you created? I would give the story and idea some more thought. I bet you'll find ways to make it more original and your own.
     
  4. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    If you just copied verbatim, then it's not your story, you just copied. If it just inspired you to write the story, then you're 100% in the clear. Ideas can't be copyrighted, only the execution.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    It could be infringement in that what you're creating could be a derivative work. In the U.S., creation of derivative works is right secured to the copyright owner. There is a lot of analysis that would go into this, though, so it would be best to get some legal advice.

    Whether it is deemed plagiarism or otherwise unethical is a separate issue.
     
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  6. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

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    Actually, I found out that's quite a well-known joke so I'm probably not going to bother with it as it's not fresh.

    For those interested this is the joke (as you can see, I wouldn't transcribe it verbatim, I just liked the idea) :D

     
  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Well, you know what they say: imitation is the highest form of flattery. Tell that to an intellectual property judge, though.
     
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  8. ruskaya

    ruskaya Member

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    I also have a question about what constitutes copyright infringement.

    I read online about an interesting murder case, and it sounds like the perfect setup for a novel. I was wondering if describing the murder scene just exactly how it looks like and taking heavily from the personality of the murderer and taking words from a few of the dialogues/interviews that appear online would constitute copyright infringement?

    I am actually not interested in writing a mystery novel, but I do sometimes find inspirations in news and the like about real situations.
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    It's not copyright infringement if it's taken from a real-life event, nobody has a copyright on real life. But be careful there isn't a movie or made-for-TV special about it, you might get sued over that, unless you take a very different approach than they did. Would you be saying "based on real events?", like on the back cover if it's a book? That's a very common thing in writing about actual events, and if you say that right up front then nobody would care if they discover it's based on something that actually happened.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020
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  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    In the U.S., there is no copyright protection in the underlying facts, so using the facts just as they exist in real life (i.e. describing the murder scene) is not an issue. With respect to "taking heavily" from the personality of the murderer, you're not talking about copyright so much as "right of publicity" and whether the murderer (or his heirs) would have a cause of action against you on those grounds.
     
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  11. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If you're using quotes that were in a news story, those aren't your quotes. They were told to a reporter, and even other publications that borrow these quotes would say something like "he told The New York Times" or something like that. Now, the police and courts do have public information that you could request. I would use those sources before an article I read online.
     
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  12. ruskaya

    ruskaya Member

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    what about if a news channel has a guest on their program and I use the words the guest has said on that specific program (or documentary)?
     
  13. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I wouldn't touch the either. You are not the one doing the interview. It's not you they are saying these things to. I think lifting quotes is where you really get into stealing. I have no idea what you can and can't do with this legally, but I would be really pissed if I was the journalist who got those quotes, soundbites, interviews, I would be really pissed to see them word for word in someone else's book. I think if someone did this to be, I would speak to a lawyer and want to sue them. You've got to give credit where credit is due. I'm telling you you can get a lot by requesting public information. A little research and legwork and you probably won't even need to think about stealing or revamping someone else's stuff.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    There's an easy way around this--just don't use the words of the interviewee verbatim. If you use them verbatim, provided it's a significantly long snippet, there may be a potential claim from either the interviewee or interviewer. On the other hand, if the interviewee is reporting the facts of a murder case and you take the facts from her statements but do not reproduce her words, then I wouldn't be concerned.
     
  15. iowawriter

    iowawriter Member

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    Kind of off topic, but I was wondering...

    Is someone's legal name their own property? I mean let's say Riley McBigshot is becoming an important deal in sports. entertainment or what have you.

    Can someone else register Riley's name as their own property? So if Riley has merch made, the other person can say, give me my royalties, your name belongs to me?
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    IMO:

    Could be looking at a right of publicity case for using someone else's name (e.g. see the Tony Twist case).

    Could be a trademark claim if the person has developed trademark rights in their name with respect to specific goods and services.
     
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  17. iowawriter

    iowawriter Member

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    Thanks, I appreciate it.

    I was wondering because it seems some pro wrestlers use their real name for their character thinking they can use it no matter what company they work for.
     
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  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    @iowawriter

    Getting more to your question, I suppose--in the U.S., you can't get a trademark registration unless you're using the mark in commerce. So you couldn't just register a name and sit on it, then go after the sports star (or anyone else). Also, if the trademark examiner thinks there is likely to be confusion as to affiliation, she will reject the application. And more, there is an opposition period once the mark is approved by the Trademark Office, so the sports star could oppose it at that time.

    Finally, there is a cancellation process in the Trademark Office. If I were the sports star and you'd already managed to get the registration through somehow and I thought it was harming me, I'd probably try to cancel your registration.
     
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  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    That would be an interesting issue. I wonder what their contracts say about that.
     
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  20. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I still say it's better to do your own research and work than just trust what you've read. Not everything makes it into a news story. If you can go straight to the source of information (and if someone else has, you defiantly can), the only reason to lift these things would be out of laziness.
     
  21. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I agree if you're writing non-fiction. In the case of a novel, as was posed, I don't know that it is necessary unless it is intended to be a dramatization of the actual crime. Just my feeling on how far to dig depending on what you're writing.
     
  22. ruskaya

    ruskaya Member

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    thanks for all your answers! :superagree:

    @deadrats
    one more thing to stir to pot: what about original trial records? Are those "public records" you are referring to?
     
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  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think you're stirring the pot. I'm just trying to say that you can get your hands on a lot of this material or even better material going through public records. Most likely the original trail records are public records unless the judge had some sort of order, but even then it probably wouldn't exclude all of it. I've gotten my hands on the audio of actual trials and listened to the whole things. Some places might have video. At the very least you should be able to get a transcript.

    For requesting this information, you will want to write a FOIA (freedom of information act) letter. You can probably find a templet online or if you need help, I have probably have some old ones I've sent in me emails. Sometimes places will give you the information for free. They can charge, but they're not allowed to charge ridiculous amounts. Most places I've done this haven't charged anything, which I have found seems to be the case when there is nothing to hide. Other places can charge per page, but it shouldn't be much more than if you were making copies yourself. If you were to show up there, you should be able to view the records you want, but with the coronavirus I'm not so sure how that is working. With everything digital these days, it might be easier depending how old the records you want are. You'll want to say in the FOIA that if the cost is going to be higher than a certain amount they should contact you before compiling your requested information. Like I said, most of the time this isn't really an issue or a big expense. You'll want to send your request to the courthouse where the trial was. I would contact the clerks office and the DA's office. You could just start by calling them and asking what they have on it. They could just offer to send stuff to you without you needing to send a formal request. A FOIA letter gives them 30 days to respond. There might be more than you really want and narrowing your request will make it easier on everyone. I would say to also contact the police department that did the investigation or arrest or whatever. There could be sections that are blacked out in both the court and police records. That's normal if they are looking to protect victims or minors, but it shouldn't disrupt what you're looking for.

    I hope some of this is helpful. It's something a lot of writers have done. You'll get good information and you will be getting it right from the source so you really won't have to question it. Good luck.
     
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  24. ruskaya

    ruskaya Member

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    haha, I think I used the wrong expression. I meant to say to keep stirring possibilities with my question. :superwink:

    And thanks for the extensive explanations :superagree:
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  25. ruskaya

    ruskaya Member

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    yes. I find it pretty hard to copy a piece of something and knit a story around it leaving the original piece just as it is. For me, even if I started from a real-life story and interviews, the words would naturally change to suit the story, and in the process characters would change too to match what I understand my story to be like. It could never be exactly the same words. This is why I think it is hard work for those who want to represent the truth and are committed to an original story, to tell a story faithfully. I was just curious to learn where the line falls, just because it is always better to know than not to know, especially not to accidentally take credit for someone else's work.
     

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