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When is it OK to write a story using characters or continue a story that is inactive

oldegrump

I have read several stories that i would like to either continue or use characters from but can not get any response from the original author. Is one cases the author stated in his blog he was having health problems, and the blog was last updated over 7 years ago.

I would not want someone to use my characters or continue my stories without permission, but I do not have a way to get that permission in these cases.

robberhands
Updated:

@oldegrump

That's easy to answer. It's OK when you have the permission of the copyright holder. If you can't get the permission for whatever reason, stay away from their stories.

Ernest Bywater

Legally, you can't use their characters or story lines without their permission. On a practical basis, depending on who it is they may actually have died and no one is following up on their stories. Thus you may be able to get away with it because there's no one to cause you trouble about them. however, the date on the blog may not be important because Lazeez has a policy of moving stories behind the paywall if the author has not logged on during the last 5 years, so if the stories are still in the free zone that means their account has been active for reading sometime ion the last 5 years. Try sending them a message through the site message system.

Replies:   robberhands
Ernest Bywater

@oldegrump

I would not want someone to use my characters or continue my stories without permission, but I do not have a way to get that permission in these cases.


You can give permission to do this with your stories by creating a universe, make it a public universe and include a note in the universe description that you give people permission to use the universe and the characters of your stories. Or you could add a similar note to the end note of your stories.

robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

Legally, you can't ... On a practical basis ... you may be able to get away with it.

Congratulations, a great way to give an ethically rather questionable advice.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Congratulations, a great way to give an ethically rather questionable advice.

Except ... Lazeez has stated that he supports fan-fiction, meaning that he's not a stickler for an absolute copyright protection regime. Given that background, just as many authors allow fan fiction to flourish, while not specifically granting them permission, he's acting under the principal that, if no one stands to lose, there's essentially no harm nor foul.

Thus someone can't publish your work as their own, but, if you aren't around to contact, someone may 'borrow' your characters for their own story (just as they sometimes use real-life celebrities), or write an entirely new story using your stories as a background.

If, at any time, an author or their relatives registered an official complaint, Lazeez would delete the stories, warning the new author of the complaint, so there is still protections for the original author.

Replies:   robberhands  REP
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

Except ... Lazeez has stated that he supports fan-fiction

Oh! In that case, all ethical questions are resolved, of course.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

Given that background, just as many authors allow fan fiction to flourish, while not specifically granting them permission


:) I had a wacky thought when I read the above.

J.K Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series. So using her story universe, assume Writer A uses her characters without permission in a new story universe that becomes very popular. Assume Rowling then writes stories in Writer A's universe.

Could Writer A sue Roweling for violating their copy write?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

Could Writer A sue Roweling for violating their copy write?


Technically, yes, but Roweling would likely counter sue on the original violation of her copyrights.

This then gets into a very messy situation where potentially both win as plaintiffs and damages cancel out.

Replies:   REP  Vlad_Inhaler
REP

@Dominions Son

Yeah, I know. As I said, a wacky idea. :)

In such a situation, Rowling might claim that she is a part owner of Writer A's universe since she owns the characters, and since she is a part owner, she doesn't need Writer A's permission.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

In such a situation, Rowling might claim that she is a part owner of Writer A's universe since she owns the characters, and since she is a part owner, she doesn't need Writer A's permission.


Under US copyright law at least, such a claim would fail. No matter what, Writer A would own the copyright on what ever was original to him.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son


Under US copyright law at least, such a claim would fail.


Perhaps. However, a story universe is an entity that has multiple integral parts. Since Rowling owned at least some of the characters that comprise that integral whole, she would be a part owner of the story universe. If a part owner of the universe does not have the right to write stories in the universe, then the other part owner doesn't have the right either. I suppose she could claim his filing for copy right protection was theft of her intellectual property in that she owned part of Writer A's universe.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

If a part owner of the universe does not have the right to write stories in the universe, then the other part owner doesn't have the right either.


Both would have the right to write stories in the universe, however technically neither would have the right to publish those stories without the permission of the other party.

I suppose she could claim his filing for copy right protection was theft of her intellectual property in that she owned part of Writer A's universe.


You suppose incorrectly. US copyright law doesn't work that way.

1. No one is required to register a copyright ever. You can publish freely without a registered copyright. The the only thing registering a copyright gets you in US law is the right to choose statutory damages over actual damages in a copyright suit. Statutory damages will generally be higher than actual damages.

If you do no register the copyright you are limited to actual damages. Which in the case of a violation published for free on the internet could be $0.00

2, While many authors, publishers and media talking heads, talk about copyright violations as "theft", that analogy is completely unsupported by US copyright law.

No US court has ever treated copyright violations as a form of "theft".

At best, in terms of damages, Rowling would be entitled to monetary damages for past distribution and either royalties for future sales or an injunction baring further publication / sale.

Replies:   REP  PotomacBob
Vlad_Inhaler

@Dominions Son

Totally missing the point.
The lawyers would win.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Vlad_Inhaler

Not necessarily. There have been a number of cases in the last decade where the lawyers for copyright trolls have been hit with heavy fines by way of court sanctions for filing frivolous cases and raising frivolous arguments in motions.

There was even one case where they were referred to the DOJ for criminal contempt of court charges.

Replies:   Vlad_Inhaler
sunkuwan

Any Fan-fiction story that gets massively successful and picked up by a publisher would get heavily edited to make it "original"

You know, like the little book, "50 shades of grey"? that started as twilight fanfiction?

There are many more authors who started as fan-fiction writers.

Is there even ONE case where an Author successfully sued a fanfiction work?

Replies:   PotomacBob
REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son

I think you are missing my point. According to Title 17:

201. Ownership of copyright1

(a) Initial Ownership.—Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work. The authors of a joint work are coowners of copyright in the work.


https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.html

Rowling would be considered a coauthor in Writer A's universe in that she created and built some of the characters Writer A is using, so his work was a joint effort even though Rowling was not aware of it.

The theft I'm referring to is Writer A failing to list Rowling as a coowner of the copyright.

ETA: In doing so, Writer A stole her portion of the intellectual property rights.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Vlad_Inhaler

@Dominions Son

ok, in 99.9% of the cases, the lawyers win. They have to *really* screw up before they themselves get hit.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@REP


Rowling would be considered a coauthor in Writer A's universe in that she created and built some of the characters Writer A is using, so his work was a joint effort even though Rowling was not aware of it.


No, you are confusing derivative works with joint works. For it to be a joint work, Rowling would have had to have been an active participant.

Writer A's work would be considered an unauthorized derivative work, not a joint work.


The theft I'm referring to is Writer A failing to list Rowling as a coowner of the copyright.


The word theft has no legal applicability to the situation you describe.

Replies:   REP
PotomacBob

@Dominions Son

The the only thing registering a copyright gets you in US law is the right to choose statutory damages over actual damages in a copyright suit

You own the copyright of your work as soon as it comes out of your typewriter (or equivalent). Registering your copyright also gives you evidence of the date of your work (assuming you registered it quickly after producing it), which may come in handy if a dispute ever occurs over who produced the words first.

Replies:   Dominions Son
PotomacBob

@sunkuwan

Many of us could not afford to defend a lawsuit. I assume that means whoever filed the lawsuit would win by default.

Replies:   sunkuwan
Dominions Son

@PotomacBob

Registering your copyright also gives you evidence of the date of your work (assuming you registered it quickly after producing it)


Not really, because how do you prove you registered it immediately. The legal requirement for statutory damages only requires that you register before you file suit.

PotomacBob

@Dominions Son

You are not required to register it immediately. But whenever you do register it, if you do, it is evidence that at least as of that date you had written it. It makes it in your interest to register it immediately. And while it may be true that there is a requirement to register it at some point before you file suit, that does not give you evidence of the time you wrote it.
If you wrote a story in July 2000, and registered it in July 2000, and somebody else claimed the story was theirs, you will have evidence that you had written yours by July 2000. If you did not register it until, say, 2005, what evidence do you have that you wrote it in 2000? You may not have to register it until a few days before you filed suit, but if you want to prove you wrote it much earlier, registering it earlier will be evidence in your favor.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP

@Dominions Son

Writer A's work would be considered an unauthorized derivative work, not a joint work.


I think a court case would be interesting.

1. Rowling owns the characters, thus Writer A's use of them is a clear violation of the copy right protection Rowling has on her universe.

2. Writer A integrated a piece of Rowling's intellectual property into the universe A created. Rowling still owns that character so I believe a case could be made for her owning a portion of A's universe.

It doesn't matter that A added the character without Rowling's permission. She owns an integral part of A's universe, which makes her a part owner.

Getting a court to see that might be difficult and the cost of pursing that line of logic may not be worth the money.

Replies:   Dominions Son
REP

@PotomacBob

If you did not register it until, say, 2005, what evidence do you have that you wrote it in 2000?


Most writers don't wait 5 years to publish a story. If the story was finished in 2000, the writer would probably publish it in 2000 or 2001. Publication date would be proof that the story was written in or before the year it was published.

Copy righting the story makes it easier to prove ownership.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@REP

Getting a court to see that might be difficult and the cost of pursing that line of logic may not be worth the money.


It could also get the lawyer sanctioned for making a frivolous argument.

sunkuwan

@PotomacBob

Would you monetize a fanfiction story? if yes, that's on you, just change the characters and names.
If no, then no-one would be insane enough to sue, they would get smashed in court because of wasting the courts time.
The most you would get is a cease and desist letter.

And if Million of harry potter and naruto fanfiction stories can survive, so can writerA.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@sunkuwan

If no, then no-one would be insane enough to sue, they would get smashed in court because of wasting the courts time.
The most you would get is a cease and desist letter.


This is not necessarily true under us law.

If the copyright on the original work is registered, the owner of that copyright would have access to statutory damages which are quite severe and would apply even if no money was made from the violation of the copyright.

Now the average fan fiction author wouldn't have the resources to pay the statutory damages, making a suit largely pointless, but that is not necessarily true of all fan fiction authors.

Replies:   sunkuwan  PotomacBob
sunkuwan

@Dominions Son

Correct me if wrong, but the cease and desist letter has to come first, right?
Even evil Videogame developers have to shut down unwanted modding (the fanfiction of games) with C&D letters first.

Dominions Son

@sunkuwan

Correct me if wrong, but the cease and desist letter has to come first, right?


Actually, no. While a cease and desist letter in generally done, because it is cheap and easy, it is not a mandatory prerequisite to a copyright lawsuit.

Dominions Son

@sunkuwan

Even evil Videogame developers have to shut down unwanted modding (the fanfiction of games) with C&D letters first.


Game mods are not necessarily a copyright violation.

PotomacBob

@Dominions Son

the owner of that copyright would have access to statutory damages


What are statutory damages?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@PotomacBob

What are statutory damages?


Statutory damages are a damage award in civil law, in which the amount awarded is stipulated within the statute rather than being calculated based on the degree of harm to the plaintiff. ... Amounts could also be set per day, as in acts proscribing human-rights violations which might specify damages of $1,000 per day.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutory_damages

For copyright specifically:

In the United States, statutory damages are set out in 17 U.S.C. § 504 of the U.S. Code. The basic level of damages is between $750 and $30,000 per work, at the discretion of the court.

Plaintiffs who can show willful infringement may be entitled to damages up to $150,000 per work.[1] Defendants who can show that they were "not aware and had no reason to believe" they were infringing copyright may have the damages reduced to $200 per work.[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutory_damages_for_copyright_infringement

If copyright owner registers their copyright, they can choose at the outset of a copyright lawsuit to seek statutory damages or actual damages, but they can not seek both or ask the court for whichever is greater.

I was mistaken above as to the required timing of registration relative to seeking statutory damages.

Under 17 U.S.C. § 412, statutory damages are only available in the United States for works that were registered with the Copyright Office prior to infringement, or within three months of publication.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Not really, because how do you prove you registered it immediately. The legal requirement for statutory damages only requires that you register before you file suit.

I thought the requirement was based upon the publication (or, in SOL's case, the original posting) date. Thus you have to file for protection early, as they won't allow you to file an ad hoc registration claim.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@PotomacBob

You are not required to register it immediately. But whenever you do register it, if you do, it is evidence that at least as of that date you had written it.

In my case, when I register the book with Bowser (the U.S. ISBN supplier), it serves as a 'proof of ownership' (to a degree, as they allow you to also include the actual content of the book). But the main thing is that, by filing it before anyone has a chance to file their own copy of your work, you're on record as claiming your ownership of the work.

Also, the date you first began posting it to SOL serves as 'evidence' of your 'first publication date'.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Most writers don't wait 5 years to publish a story.

Most traditionally published books take a minimum of three years before they're published. It's own 'independent' publishers, like many of us on SOL, who post so quickly after writing our works.

Replies:   REP
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Thus you have to file for protection early, as they won't allow you to file an ad hoc registration claim.


You are correct, and I was mistaken.

Under 17 U.S.C. § 412, statutory damages are only available in the United States for works that were registered with the Copyright Office prior to infringement, or within three months of publication.

REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Most traditionally published books take a minimum of three years before they're published.


For a court, would the publication date be the date the book is printed or the date the author began the publication process?

Dominions Son

@REP

For a court, would the publication date be the date the book is printed or the date the author began the publication process?


Generally a court is not going to care past the year (which is all that was required on the copyright notification), unless there is a dispute over who wrote a specific work, or a copyright violation fight between two works published in the same year.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

For a court, would the publication date be the date the book is printed or the date the author began the publication process?

It depends on which they can prove. If you can prove when you first finished/completed the story, that's further proof, which is why it's helpful to document your various stages in some form. But, baring other proof, the first publication date is sufficient.

However, the problem occurs when an author is about to publish something, and someone else releases something surprisingly similar. In that case, despite the similarities, the first to market typically wins the case. And you'd be surprised how often that happens. (I've heard many lament about this very issue online.)

Replies:   REP
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@oldegrump


I have read several stories that i would like to either continue or use characters from but can not get any response from the original author. Is one cases the author stated in his blog he was having health problems, and the blog was last updated over 7 years ago.

I would not want someone to use my characters or continue my stories without permission, but I do not have a way to get that permission in these cases.


When I wanted to use characters from a story I liked very much and the author did not have an e-mail contact, I asked Lazeez for help in reaching the author. He forwarded my request to the author and left it up to the author to respond.

That's the only way I know of to reach an "unlisted" author.

ETA: I also checked a couple of other sites where the author's work appeared but found no contact info there, either, but it might be worth a search to see if you can turn up any additional lead.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

I also checked a couple of other sites where the author's work appeared but found no contact info there, either, but it might be worth a search to see if you can turn up any additional lead.

I not only have author and story messaging turned on, but I publicly post all of my personal contact information on each book I publish, not that it's ever done any good, as no one's ever contacted me after purchasing a book, but I'm not afraid of constructive criticism, and I'm willing to argue my positions, and reconsider them if wrong. (Though I'll argue till I'm blue in the face if I think people don't comprehend my point!)

REP

@Crumbly Writer

I'll rephrase my query.

If an author provides a copy, electronic or hardcopy, of a story to a publisher would the submission of the story to the publisher be considered publishing the story.

Or is publishing a story defined as offering it to the general public for purchase or reading.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

Or is publishing a story defined as offering it to the general public for purchase or reading.


That answer will depend more on the laws in an area than anything else. I recently looked at this in regards to the Australian laws relevant to publishing and copyright (which is 2 different set of laws here). To be published it must be somewhere a member of the general public can access it either for a fee or for free. So posting something on you blog which is on the Internet or on a site like SoL or via a major print house are all seen as publishing the story or whatever.

However, copyright exists the moment the story etc is created. Thus the stories I have half written on my computer are protected by copyright as being copyrighted but not yet published. That holds true while they do the rounds of my editors, but the moment I post them at SoL or send a copy off to the National Library as a Legal Deposit the story is published as per Australian law. The US and Canadian laws may be a little different, but I can't see them getting very different.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sunkuwan

You guys look like you are either trying to find a loophole to make cash out of fanfiction.
Or do an impression of "old man yelling at cloud" on a scenario that is massively unlikely.

This is about FanFiction, not plagiarism. No one will make millions with your characters while you sell only a handful of books.

And all experiences in this matter point to an increase in viewers and sponsorships of an amateur author which has a big FanFiction following.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP
Updated:

@sunkuwan


This is about FanFiction, not plagiarism.


Wrong. The OP is about copy right violations, not fan fiction. CW happened to mention fan fiction as an example, and I used Rowling in a hypothetical situation. The primary focus is on using another writer's characters and universes without permission.

Based on this and prior posts, you seem to have Fan Fiction on the brain.

Replies:   sunkuwan  Crumbly Writer
sunkuwan
Updated:

@REP

Using another writer's characters and the Universe IS the quintessence definition of fanfiction.What the Op wants to do IS fanfiction

Plagiarism is when you use the same story with other characters or in another universe.

And copyright violation is all of the above.

But no one will file a complaint for non-profit fanfiction. Just using fancy words (copyright violation) for something that is happening for decades doesn't make it more probable to get sued for fanfiction. The whole fandom survived the copyright wars against consumers of the music and film industry unscratched and there is no legislation in sight to clamp down on fanfiction.

Centaur

@sunkuwan

But no one will file a complaint for non-profit fanfiction. Just using fancy words (copyright violation) for something that is happening for decades doesn't make it more probable to get sued for fanfiction. The whole fandom survived the copyright wars against consumers of the music and film industry unscratched and there is no legislation in sight to clamp down on fanfiction.


check this link if you think no one will get sued.
Axanar has settled its lawsuit with Paramount over its Star Trek fan film

Replies:   sunkuwan  Dominions Son
sunkuwan

@Centaur

- This is a film
- which raised 1 million dollar in crowdfunding

has nothing to do with non-profit fanfiction stories.

Replies:   Centaur  Capt. Zapp
Centaur

@sunkuwan

-clearly you stated film.
-yes crowdfunding to make the film as in no-profit.
-this is a fan fiction

so it has everything to do with your statement.

while there was not legislation, the judgment set a president. which can be used for or against any other forms of copyright infringment.

Replies:   sunkuwan
sunkuwan

@Centaur

-clearly you stated film.

I said that the fanfiction fandom survived the film and music industries copyright wars unscratched, meaning, the book industry didn't try to criminalize their fans and shutting down fan projects.

-yes crowdfunding to make the film as in no-profit.

Without laying out their whole finances, it would be impossible to know if they made a profit on the crowdfunding or not. Most crowdfunding projects overshoot their financing goals, to have a buffer.

-this is a fan fiction

The thread is about writing /continuing with the characters from another author, not making a film.

This whole scenario is about an amateur author asking if it is possible to continue a universe/characters from another amateur author.
There is a 0,0000000001% chance that the courts would even look at such a case

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt. Zapp

@sunkuwan

- which raised 1 million dollar in crowdfunding

has nothing to do with non-profit fanfiction stories.


As I recall, the crowdfunding was being misappropriated to create a studio to be used for profit.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@sunkuwan


But no one will file a complaint for non-profit fanfiction.


Disney has gone after non-profit fan fiction.

Though I don't know if they have ever gone so far as actually filing suit.

The cases I have read about have been over people using Disney children's entertainment characters in adult fan fiction.

However, since they bought the rights to Star Wars, there has also been persistent rumors that they were planning to start going after Star Wars fan fiction.

Dominions Son

@Centaur

check this link if you think no one will get sued.
Axanar has settled its lawsuit with Paramount over its Star Trek fan film


That case is more complex than that.

Axanar was actually committing fraud against the crowd funding donors.

The reason they got sued over the fan fiction film is because they were using the crowd funding money that was supposed to go to the Star Trek fan film to build a commercial film studio.

Dominions Son

Here's a link that has a list of legal cases that would be important precedents for US fan fiction authors should familiarize themselves with.

http://www.trademarkandcopyrightlawblog.com/2016/10/10-copyright-cases-every-fan-fiction-writer-should-know-about/

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
Crumbly Writer

@REP

If an author provides a copy, electronic or hardcopy, of a story to a publisher would the submission of the story to the publisher be considered publishing the story.

NO! However, depending on how the publisher processes the file (i.e. if they can document when it was received) THEN it can be used as evidence in a copyright violation trial, but until then, who holds it doesn't mean diddly.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

However, copyright exists the moment the story etc is created.

Not quite. Copyright 'protection' exists when you finish a work, but ONLY if you can prove it. Copyright itself only exists once it's 'published'. Thus you DON'T list a copyright date based on when you wrote the story, only when you make it available.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

And all experiences in this matter point to an increase in viewers and sponsorships of an amateur author which has a big FanFiction following.

No one really makes ANYTHING thru fan-fiction. However, if your FREE Fan-Fiction piece takes off, THEN you monetize it, either by writing something original, or modifying the story so it's no longer based on someone else's work.

Replies:   sunkuwan
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Based on this and prior posts, you seem to have Fan Fiction on the brain.

They're both similar, in that you (the author) are basing your work on the copyrighted material of someone else, thus the same restrictions of fan fiction apply here.

If you have permission, you're free to publish it yourself, but you need to ensure you have the permission IN WRITING, with a signature, and not just a verbal OK.

As with fan-fiction, if the original author complains, AND your work is based on their material, then you're responsible for removing the work, though when and how fast depend on how many lawyers you know.

Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

But no one will file a complaint for non-profit fanfiction. Just using fancy words (copyright violation) for something that is happening for decades doesn't make it more probable to get sued for fanfiction. The whole fandom survived the copyright wars against consumers of the music and film industry unscratched and there is no legislation in sight to clamp down on fanfiction.

IF you file for a copyright, then you can sue for statutory damages. If not, you're stuck with claiming whatever they earn, which in these cases is $Zero! Statutory damages, however, could include your estimated loss of income someone's FacFiction might cost you (say if they steal you book, plot or characters and the work damages your 'brand' (ex: they make your piss-artists and people stop purchasing your works because of it).

The big problem, though, isn't just how much the person charges themselves, but how much money you can capture from them. If they have no income, or the income is protected, then you're shit out of luck.

Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

There is a 0,0000000001% chance that the courts would even look at such a case

That statement is a load of nonsense. The courts would have no problem considering it, the problem is whether you can get anything for all the expensive legal fees. If the work sells for $0, the plaintiff has no disposable income, then it's simply not worth the effort and expense of filing a suit. Plus, in the case of Fan-Fiction, and SOL Universes, the work of other authors will often increase the value of the original author's work, as it increases his fan base by making more people aware of his work.

StarFleet Carl

@Dominions Son

Here's a link that has a list of legal cases that would be important precedents for US fan fiction authors should familiarize themselves with.


And the Number 4 case in that list would answer the question regarding Rowling and the fan fiction author, at least in this country.

Put another way, you can't infringe something that infringed you first.


I pay attention to this simply because the first major work of mine that I posted here on SOL is a fan fiction of the Bethesda game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In my case, there are two things that would indicate that Bethesda, who owns the copyright, won't bother me. First, Bethesda actively allows players of the game to make mods for the game, things that can actively change the way the game is played, change the storyline, even to the point of players adding mods that bring in elements of OTHER Bethesda games, AND they allow those mods to be freely distributed to other players. And second, I'm not trying to make a profit of my story.

If I were to try to make a profit off it, then I would do what Erika Mitchell (aka E.L. James) did and change enough of the book such that, while it would still have some of the common elements of Skyrim that pretty much are standard fantasy stories now (Elves, Dragons, magic, etc.), they would no longer infringe upon any copyright held by Bethesda. Fifty Shades of Solitude, maybe? :)

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Not quite. Copyright 'protection' exists when you finish a work, but ONLY if you can prove it. Copyright itself only exists once it's 'published'. Thus you DON'T list a copyright date based on when you wrote the story, only when you make it available.


Sorry CW, but under the Berne Convention, and the laws of many countries which follow it, copyright exists at the moment of creation. Many jurisdictions have the copyright existing at the moment the creation is fixed in some format such as being written down or recorded in a physical medium of some sort which gives the creator automatic copyrights in what they've created.

The work doesn't have to be finished to have what you've done protected by copyright unless you're in one of those jurisdictions where they don't recognise copyright on anything that is registered with the stated registration body. Thus a story outline and a movie storyboard are copyrighted despite a completed story not being finished. Individual scenes are protected as soon as they're written yet the full story may take a lot longer to write. The completion of a story or other creative work is an arbitrary decision by the creator.

Take my Clan Amir stories, I wrote a mix of 44 short stories, novella, and novels over a number of years which I've published as seven books, two anthologies, and one full collection as well as individual stories on SoL and Fine Stories. Each existed with full copyright the moment I wrote, not when I published the full collection book.

Having said the above there is a difference with such things as registration of works. Take the Legal Deposit requirements, the laws for that require the lodgement of a copy of the work with the relevant authority when the work is published and made available to the public, not when it's created. In the traditional book printing world the Legal Deposit is made by the publisher, but with self-publishing this responsibility falls on the creator who's doing the publishing.

Here in Australia the Legal Deposit requirement is included in the Copyright Act of the Commonwealth government and the state governments. They also require the lodgement to be within a short set time frame of the publication date. Due to a technicality I'm not required to lodge my stories with either the Australian or New South Wales government because the requirement to make a legal deposit for books published here in Australia. However, the National Library welcome a lodgement with them for any books published by Australian authors elsewhere or books about Australia.

Similar requirements are in place in other countries as well.

US authors please note this from Wikipedia on Legal Deposit in the US.

In the United States, any copyrighted and published work must be submitted in two copies to the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. -This mandatory deposit is not required to possess copyright of unpublished works, but a copyright registration can give an author enhanced remedies in case of a copyright violation. The Library of Congress does not retain all works.

Replies:   AmigaClone
AmigaClone

@Ernest Bywater

Each existed with full copyright the moment I wrote, not when I published the full collection book.


My understanding is that each of your stories gained full copyright the moment you wrote them. You would also have a separate copyright for each of the books or anthologies when they were created.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
sunkuwan

@Crumbly Writer

No one really makes ANYTHING thru fan-fiction. However, if your FREE Fan-Fiction piece takes off, THEN you monetize it, either by writing something original, or modifying the story so it's no longer based on someone else's work.


This point is not about monetizing fanfiction, this is about the original amateur Author who has a bigger following through the work of fanfiction authors on his works and therefore a bigger income through patreon, donors and book sales (if he has such a thing).

Ernest Bywater

@AmigaClone

My understanding is that each of your stories gained full copyright the moment you wrote them. You would also have a separate copyright for each of the books or anthologies when they were created.


You're right as far as that goes, however, the crux of the matter between what I said and what CW said is a bit further into the weeds. I said the copyright exists when the content is created, where CW said the copyright exists when the content is completed with the copyright date going from when you made it available to others and not when you created it. CW may be right in regards to the US law, but he's not right about the general concept and the laws in other countries and the Berne Convention which say the copyright exists at creation.

As an example, take my book Falcon Chick where during the course of a few months starting in 2007 I wrote twelve short stories, and when I had them all written I put them out as a single book. because I published them as a single book the publication date is that of the book, while CW's definition would have the copyright date as when the decision to say, "This is enough for a book, this book is finished," while my definition says each of the stories was created and protected copyright under the Berne Convention when I wrote them, not when I decided they would now make a book.

The end result is under the Berne Convention all of the 44 stories in the 7 original books were covered by copyright when they were written back in 2007 while the books they were first published in books in 2007 and 2008, then later had a new edition when released as part of 2 anthologies in 2014, and later published a third time as the single collected edition in 2017. Yet the copyright for each story is still 2007, while the mild variation of putting them into books has their specific editions from the date the edition was published. I know it can get confusing, but for legal protection you count the copyright from when the original was created, and not from the date of the latest edition being published. And in publishing an edition has to have a slight difference to the original, thus the change in the collection makes it a new edition, as would the inclusion of a new Foreword or the removal of some duplicated material.

Replies:   Dominions Son
JohnBobMead

@sunkuwan

But no one will file a complaint for non-profit fanfiction.


The Holmesian Federation was a fanzine focusing primarily on Star Trek/Sherlock Holmes crossovers. They also included other Sherlock Holmes crossovers.

They had no repurcusions for the first seven issues.

The eight issue contained a Holmes/St. Germaine crossover.

Chelsey Quinn Yarbro is dead set against FanFiction. When she found out about this story, she sent them Cease & Desist letters, and it culminated in the recall and destruction of all copies of that issue.

The financial hardship this resulted in for the editor/publisher, as she refunded the funds provided for the copies and thus had to cover all the production expenses personally, resulted in no further issues being produced, and her effective withdrawal from fandom. Having purchased the seven previous issues, which I still own some thirty years later, and having met her in person, this was a great loss to the SF fan community.

So, you are totally and completely wrong. Authors will take legal action to prevent non-profit fanfiction. Ms. Yarbro is not unique in her stance and the actions taken by various authors. Marion Zimmer Bradley held similer views and took similer actions.

Replies:   sunkuwan
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

CW may be right in regards to the US law


I don't think CW is right even in regards to US law. He's picking a very small nit based on the date that is traditionally used on the copyright notice on published works.

It should be noted that both registration and the notice were mandatory for a work to by copyrighted under the US 1909 copyright act.

While most dead tree publishers continue to include the copyright notice using the standards from the 1909 act, the 1909 act was repealed and replaced with a new act in 1976 that more closely aligns with the Bern Convention. And the copyright notice is not required at all under the 1976 copyright act.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

The interesting thing about copyright in mys situation is I'm in Australia so what i write is covered by the Australian copyright laws which are recognised by the USA under a few international agreements. Although my publisher is in the USA I don't have to register via the US registration system to have full protection under the copyright laws of both countries due to the agreements recognising the Australian law that covers me.

sunkuwan

@JohnBobMead

And yet, Fanfiction.net houses tens of millions of copyright infringed fanfiction.

Replies:   JohnBobMead
REP

@sunkuwan

The OP was about using another author's characters. As I said - you seem to have Fan Fiction on the brain. Nowhere in the OP was there any mention of Fan Fiction. You interpreted what oldegrump said to apply to Fan Fiction.

What the Op wants to do IS fanfiction


Bullshit! What oldegrump stated was he had read several stories and tried to get permission from the author to use the characters. Fan Fiction is a genre of stories. Oldegrump didn't define the genre of the stories he read so none of us know the stories genre(s).

You are correct in one thing though. Authors who write Fan Fiction using another author's characters without the permission of the person holding the copyright are thieves.

Plagiarism is when you use the same story with other characters or in another universe.


Once again a twisted version of the actual definition. Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.

It would appear that you twist everything you read to fit into your view.

sunkuwan

*rolleyes*

How do you propose to define the aspect of using another author's characters? It is not plagiarism because the author doesn't pass the characters off as his own. Most Authors even have a disclaimer that the characters and Universe are from author xyz.

Now define to ME what fanfiction is? Clearly, you think that using another Author's characters is NOT Fanfiction, so I am waiting to hear what you define as Fanfiction.

Replies:   richardshagrin  REP
richardshagrin

@sunkuwan

what you define as Fanfiction

Clearly it is fiction about fans. After all Science Fiction is fiction about science.

REP

@sunkuwan

Definition of fan fiction

stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet — called also fanfic

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fan%20fiction

1. fiction written by fans of a TV series, movie, etc., using existing characters and situations to develop new plots.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fanfic

To me, oldegrump's intent is similar but the difference is the popularity of the existing characters and situations. Fan fiction uses characters and situations that well known and recognizable to the general population.

Of course only oldegrump knows what characters he wants to use and the situation he plans to put them in.

Replies:   sunkuwan
sunkuwan

@REP

Just because a story isn't popular, doesn't mean a story based on characters from that story isn't fanfiction.

... And your second link doesn't make any such distinction.

fiction written by fans of a TV series, movie, etc., using existing characters and situations to develop new plots.


And that is exactly what the OP wants to do. using existing characters for a new plot.

Asking for permission doesn't make it not fanfiction.
Only if the original author states that the new author officially takes over the "franchise" would it become not-fanfiction

JohnBobMead
Updated:

@sunkuwan

And when the copyright holders complain, they get taken down. Fanfiction.net realizes that they can't afford a lawsuit, but until an intellectual property rights holder actually contacts them, they'll publish any fanfic that isn't of a type that the rights holder has officialy banned, or is of a type that is illegal in the host country; they know better than to wave a red flag, as it were.

I never said it didn't exist, heck, I've written fanfic myself, many years ago.

You claimed no author ever complained or took action against it. That is what I refuted, because it was so incredibly false. There's no way of sugar coating it, you were just plain wrong in that statement.

Some authors are neutral concerning fanfic; they just don't read it, so no one can claim they got an idea for a future story from fanfic.

There are those who, while neutral, have stated that there are certain types of fanfic set in thier creation that they really would rather weren't posted where people can find it easily. I believe that J.K. Rowling falls into that category; there are certain types of fanfic that are so out of line with her vision of the HP Universe that she really doesn't want them out there at all.

Others actively encourage it. Eric Flint has gone so far as to provide a means whereby those writing fanfic set in his 1632 Universe can get professionally published, if their work is good enough: The Grantville Gazette is a prozine focused on the 1632 Universe. He's written several collaborative novels in this universe with writers who got their start via The Grantville Gazette, and some of these authors have Canon novels where they are the sole author. There is an increasing number of well respected Baen authors who got their start writing stories set in the 1632 Universe, and The Grantville Gazette now has it's own publishing house, distinct from Baen Books; The Grantville Gazette is up to issue 76, with issues 77 through 82 already in press.

And there are those authors who seek it out and destroy it whenever they catch wind of it. Such as Ms. Yarbro.

There's actually a cross between encouraging it and seeking to root it out. MZB did publish a number of authorized collections of Darkover fanfic, but if it didn't get published under her auspices, she was death on it. That's because she was very focused on there not being non-canon stories around; she didn't approve of portrayals of her creation which weren't in line with her personal vision for it. Unlike Ms. Yarbro, she did provide a means for stories to get vetted, via her connections with the Friends of Darkover.

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