Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Deceased Authors' Universes

Geek of Ages

As has been noted recently around here, a number of our authors are deceased.

However, let's say one of them created a universe that I found inspiring, and wanted to write something in. Normally, I would be all about contacting them to ask their permission to write/post such a story; but with them being deceased, that isn't available.

Is it bad form to write/post that story? Should I just leave well enough alone and use some of those ideas in an original work of my own? What even are the common rules around that sort of playing-in-others'-sandboxes thing?

Crumbly Writer

As long as the Universe is Open (not a 'closed universe), then anyone can post to it. The only stipulation in that circumstance is that you stick to the reservations the original author put on the universe (so you don't spoil it for others by substantially modifying the rules of the universe).

By the way, most universes are open. If it has any other authors, beside the person who first created it, it's "Open".

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

I am reasonably certain that the universe I am thinking of is Closed, though I'm having trouble figuring out how to post to an Open universe, also.

And to be fair, I'm fine with it not actually being part of the "official" universe; but I'd still add attribution to the inspiration.

Geek of Ages

Ah, found it in the posting wizard. The universe does appear to be Open, since it appears that I can post to it.

From a community, perspective, though, is it considered kosher to add on to a universe like that, years after the original author passed?

Ernest Bywater

@Geek of Ages

From a community, perspective, though, is it considered kosher to add on to a universe like that, years after the original author passed?


yes, because by having it open they've given authors permission to write in it. However, you shouldn't use their characters without their permission, but you can refer to them if you feel the need. Note: there are a few exceptions to that last sentence, because the characters involved are essential third level ones to the universe.

An example of an essential third level characters are the AIs in the Damsels in Distress universe, you really can't set a story in DiD after the the AIs were introduced without using the AIs as named, but you can't change their names or characters.

Ross at Play

We had a similar discussion, not quite what you want, not long ago.
I was in the minority (of one) stating the view if an author did not explicitly permit something while they were alive, then it's too bad.
Lazeez contributed the view that after a certain period he would allow some things. I could not see the relevance of the 'five year' period he mentioned as being included in the author agreement.
The short answer is ... ask Lazeez.

richardshagrin

The Democratic answer is that if no one can sue you, it is ok. The Republican answer is that if no one can sue you successfully (so that you lose in court, after appeals), it is ok.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

We had a similar discussion, not quite what you want, not long ago


Yes, but there is one very significant difference in this discussion. We are talking about an open universe that was created by the original author, not a subsequent open universe created by another author or Lazeez.

A universe is created closed and must explicitly and manually made public/open by it's original creator.

Making a universe public creates an implied license to create derivative works from the original author's works and to use that author's major characters*.

*By major characters, I don't mean the main/principle characters that the original author's stories are centered around, but background characters necessary to almost any story set in the universe. For example, the Confederacy High Command officers in the Swarm Cycle universe.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@richardshagrin

The Libertarian answer is we don't recognise courts have any moral authority over this, so it is okay.
The Socialist answer is we don't recognise any right of capitalists to own ideas, so it is okay.

The legal profession's answer is it looks okay, but if anyone sues you, you know where to find me, and bring your cheque book.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


The Libertarian answer is we don't recognise courts have any moral authority over this, so it is okay.


No, that's the Anarchists answer. Libertarians believe in limited government, not no government.

This is the Libertarian's answer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_license

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@Dominions Son

Libertarians believe in limited government, not no government.


Libertarians know how to play well together.

Have you ever stopped by Reason.com?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Joe Long

Have you ever stopped by Reason.com?


Yes.

Replies:   Joe Long
Geek of Ages

I think for now I'll try to write it, and then if I post it (that is, if I finish it), then I'll start by providing attribution before getting attached to an illustrious universe. If enough people tell me to join up, I should be able to adjust it at that time.

I was really hoping to avoid another politics flame war, especially in a thread that I started.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

We had a similar discussion, not quite what you want, not long ago.
I was in the minority (of one) stating the view if an author did not explicitly permit something while they were alive, then it's too bad.
Lazeez contributed the view that after a certain period he would allow some things. I could not see the relevance of the 'five year' period he mentioned as being included in the author agreement.
The short answer is ... ask Lazeez.

If nothing else, hopefully if authors keep contributing to the open universe, it'll keep it from being archived seven years after the original author died.

As long as the authors don't violate the nature of the universe, the way the original author outlined it, I don't see any drawback from that. His original work was there. The fact that other authors are still contributing is a testament to his work which helps keep it in the readers' attention.

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

I think for now I'll try to write it, and then if I post it (that is, if I finish it), then I'll start by providing attribution before getting attached to an illustrious universe. If enough people tell me to join up, I should be able to adjust it at that time.

I wouldn't worry. The author apparently created an open universe, expecting other authors to add to it. I'd still add the attribution, as that's recognizing that your work was inspired by someone else's, but beyond that, I can't see anyone else getting upset. If they do complain, then suggest they contact Lazeez and he'll set them straight.

Again, if it keeps the Universe from being archived behind a Premium wall, I doubt anyone will bitch much.

Replies:   Geek of Ages  AmigaClone
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

Reminder: the author in question is deceased. I'm not much into seances.

Ross at Play
Updated:

I mucked up my post. I planned to say the Libertarian answer is '... I want it so it is okay.'

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

'... I want it so it is okay.'


Missed again, that would be the Populists answer.

Replies:   Ross at Play
richardshagrin

If the story has a Water Sports tag it would be the Go Pee Party. For a Scatology tag, the DemoCrap Party.

AmigaClone

@Crumbly Writer

Again, if it keeps the Universe from being archived behind a Premium wall, I doubt anyone will bitch much.


I don't think that there is a way currently to actually archive either a Universe or a Series behind the Premium Wall even if all the stories they might contain are behind that wall.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Missed again, that would be the Populists answer.

This game isn't fun any more. Baiting you is just too easy.

StarFleet Carl

@Ross at Play

Baiting you is just too easy.


That's because you're excellent at that. You're obviously a Master Baiter ....

(I'll just be going now ... seriously, off to work. :) )

Replies:   Ross at Play
John Demille

@Geek of Ages

From a community, perspective, though, is it considered kosher to add on to a universe like that, years after the original author passed?


I don't see anything wrong with that, especially if the author opened it to other authors.

I haven't read anything from Karen Wagner after the original naked in school, and never heard anything about her since, and the naked in school universe is still one of the most active nearly 15 years after her posting.

Ross at Play

@StarFleet Carl

You're obviously a Master Baiter ....

Thanks. I work hard at it. :)

robberhands

@Ross at Play

I'm disappointed, Ross, don't you feel the urge to correct the spelling?

You're obviously a Master Baiter ...

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

@robberhands
I'm disappointed, Ross, don't you feel the urge to correct the spelling?
@StarFleetCarl
You're obviously a Master Baiter ...

Nah. I knew the spelling mistake was intentional and my reaction to the innuendo was, "It's a fair cop, Guv."
But I was sorely tempted to comment on the fourth full stop in his ellipsis!

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

But I was sorely tempted to comment on the fourth full stop in his ellipsis!

Ha! I noticed it too, which is actually sad. What has become of me? I even corrected it in my quotation.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Ha! I noticed it too, which is actually sad. What has become of me? I even corrected it in my quotation.

I wouldn't get concerned yet. There is a long way further down on the pedantometer still left for you to fall.
If I did anything I would have added [sic] after quoting the four full stops - to show the mistake was not mine.

Joe Long

@Dominions Son

Yes.


I'm longwoodchippers

sejintenej

Reading "Post apoc set in England" which has some similar features my thoughts came back to this thread.

Surely a Universe is a collection of stories written by the one author (but may include stories by others with his/her permission actual or implied). Those stories or the copyrights to them form part of a deceased author's estate and surely his/her executors or administrators have the right to sell or dispose of those stories/copyrights just as the author did.

Surely a universe, being simply a collection of copyrights, is also part of the deceased's estate and subject to the same rules? If so Geek of Ages could apply to them for permission.
OK, as suggested elsewhere those same executors or administrators may not even know that the deceased did write stories and might be confused - their problem!

Ross at Play

@sejintenej

That was my basic argument the last time we discussed something similar.
What Geek of Ages wants is different. For a Universe to be open the original author must have changed settings to open it up.
The deceased author in this case explicitly gave their consent for others to post their stories in the Universe.

Grant

@sejintenej

Those stories or the copyrights to them form part of a deceased author's estate

Only the stories written by the author would be under their copyright. Stories written by other authors would be under their copyrights. Just because people contribute to a particular Universe doesn't transfer the copyright from them to the creator of the Universe unless specifically stated as a condition of writing in that universe. And even then the lawyers could argue for years over validity of the agreement, whether there was actually an agreement, the requirements weren't clearly stated, easily found etc, etc, etc.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

Surely a universe, being simply a collection of copyrights, is also part of the deceased's estate and subject to the same rules? If so Geek of Ages could apply to them for permission.


If a Universe here at SoL is open to other writers it's because whoever created the universe opened it and gave everyone permission to use their universe, so no further permission is needed. If it's a closed or limited universe, then things get a bit trickier.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@sejintenej

Surely a universe, being simply a collection of copyrights, is also part of the deceased's estate and subject to the same rules? If so Geek of Ages could apply to them for permission.

OK, as suggested elsewhere those same executors or administrators may not even know that the deceased did write stories and might be confused - their problem!

Alas, a major problem here on SOL is that many authors either never admit what they write on the site, or their families simply don't care about preserving their heritage.

If the family wished to preserve their reputation, then surely they'd sign in at least in the seven years following his death. Even if they didn't have his password readily available, they could easily reach out to our great leader, possibly include a copy of the death certificate, and request a new password for the account.

Instead, most families either don't know about the authors' activities, or consider it a 'dirty little secret never to be mentioned, less everyone discover what a pervert grandpa was'. :(

If those families ever bothered examining his email, they'd realize the fan base the author had, which tells us they've probably never even glanced at them—meaning they're not about to notice any polite requests for permissions.

As far as the law is concerned—at least without a well-funded publisher with millions of dollars in potential losses at stake—your best bet is the ol' 'it's better to ask forgiveness after the fact than permission before it's done'. That's especially true because I seriously doubt that any author on SOL has ever filed a copyright application, meaning there's NOTHING to be achieved by bringing a copyright lawsuit to court, (no financial loss=nothing to recover), regardless of how they might feel about it.

In short, you've already got permission from the author to post your story. It's in everyone's best interests if you do, and there are NO negatives to doing so.

REP

@sejintenej

If so Geek of Ages could apply to them for permission.


That is the key to defining the problem. We know the Author's penname and most of us do not know the Author's real name. Without the Author's real name and contact information, there is no way to know who should be contacted.

Even if you do know the Author's real name, you generally do not have their contact information.

You may have had a valid email address, but the Author's family may not know the deceased used that address. If they did know the email address was used, they may have responded to any outstanding emails and then abandoned the email address. Thus any email you send to the family via that address will not be answered.

Back to Top