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I'm wondering...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by snabjorn, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. snabjorn

    snabjorn Dreamer

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    Everyone is so nice to answer questions and helping in here, and I'm sure if I asked some of my friends they too would help me come up with suggestions for solutions and stuff. What I am wondering is;
    Is any of the poeple that help me/you, entitled to anything in case anything turns public or something?
    I mean, I don't have copyright or anything. So, if we say, that my book someday would be a bestseller (just dreaming here), and I have maybe had a few ideas from someone else - would they be entitled to money, credits, whatever? And if so - how do I make sure that I am the only who has rights on my work? :confused: :)
    The reason I'm asking is because I'm kind of "scared" to use ideas that I have gotten from someone trying to help me, since I don't know what it will do further on. This is my first novel I'm working on, so I'm only asking out of curiosity.
     
  2. Firekeeper

    Firekeeper Troubadour

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    Good question. Personally, I see this as a place where we all share the same dream, and will help each other attain that dream if we can. If I can somehow offer a tidbit that helps someone along the way, I want nothing in return. I would like for that writer to stick around and continue to offer advice to the community that helped him/her, but it's up them.

    If I got advice that helped me, I'd send a private message thanking them, and if they consented to it I'd mention their works on my website. That goes back to my rock band days, we'd each wear shirts advertising local bands; we helped each other and if one "made it" we'd do everything we could to help them "make it" too. So I would not hesitate to promote a book from someone who helps me. But only if they wanted that and consented in advance.

    Other than that....Give a little, take a little, no obligations, just a shared dream. That's my take at least
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
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  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Firekeeper has a good attitude about this. We're all sort of in this together, although in some aspects we may be in competition in some way. I always take friendly competition as a way to motivate me more, one reason I do well with word wars, prompts, and challenges.

    That said, I don't believe (someone can correct me) that you can copyright a story concept or idea. Like if you wanted to write a story about a boy wizard in school, J.K. Rowling couldn't sue you. But if you called the boy Harry Potter and lifted the entire plotline, then that may cross into that territory. Steerpike is our resident lawyer, so maybe he can shed more light on this.

    I tend to give out ideas rather freely. Mostly because the way I execute an idea is most likely going to be a lot different from another person's way. I actually like to see how the same people tackle the same material. If someone gave me advice for something and I changed it to their suggestion, I don't think they could sue me later on and say "I took their idea without credit." Like I said, not sure how all that works, but it may not hold up in most courts. If that was the case, you'd have tons of critique partners the world over suing people.

    So yes, like Firekeeper said, share an idea, take an idea. Some are more sensitive about these kind of things. For instance if I posted the world (a dystopian Indonesian landscape) and plot of my story (a necromancer in love with an faerie) and then someone just took the whole thing, I may be upset. But if they say "I like the idea of a necromancer in love" then they can write their own necromancer in love story, no skin off my back.
     
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    If someone is worried about others stealing their ideas they shouldn't be talking about them with others.

    This doesn't mean that I encourage anyone to steal ideas from someone else. However, we - as humans - are influenced by everything we experience around us. I may pick up some impression here and some thought there and along with something someone said in chat it will combine into some kind of though. It evolves into some kind of idea and even if the end result has nothing to do with the original sources it's still influenced by it.

    I'm here to learn to write and to chat about fantasy and sf and more or less unrelated things, but most of all I'm here because I enjoy being here. I enjoy sharing my ideas and I enjoy hearing the ideas of others (especially if they're similar to something I'm working on). It's good fun and I think that in the long run it will make me a better writer.

    I should also point out that I fully subscribe to the idea that ideas are worthless and that it's what you do with them that matters. - Hence why my next short story will have singing, flying, bears in it.
     
  5. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    You can't. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. (Just look at all the LotR rip-offs.) Now, the Harry Potter example (and fan fic in general) is more complicated because it gets into trademark law, which has different rules; if you wrote a story about a boy wizard named Harry Potter, you probably run into trademark infringement. If you wrote a story about an unhappy 45 year old mortician in Idaho named Harry Potter who shoots big elk and leaves the carcasses on the doorsteps of his ex-lovers, you might not have a trademark problem. (Tho' I wouldn't risk it.)

    You are also now free to write my mortician story, and there's nothing I can do under copyright law to gain compensation. If I had outlined the whole mortician story and given you a lot of details that you used, then I could present my outline to your publisher and the press and call it plagiarism and smear your rep and possibly screw your book deal.

    In the event of publication, the polite thing is acknowledgments with the work, even if you just thank someone by name with no specifics. If in doubt, acknowledge, so you make people happy, rather than pissed off. But there's no legal obligation.

    (I am an atty. This post should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an atty-client relationship.)
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    AnneL adds a useful point: it's your publisher who is going to worry most over these things. They don't like to get sued. It will mostly likely be the publisher--or, more hopefully, your agent--who steps in and advises against Harry Potter and the Mortician's Chamber of Buried Secrets.

    Going the self-publish route is obviously riskier, because now you yourself are agent and publisher. You can the opportunities, you also take the risks.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Actually, if you had a detailed enough outline and the person taking your idea followed it, you might very well have a copyright infringement claim.
     
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  8. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Listen to this man... he's a professional copyright lawyer.
     
  9. And your likelihood of success is modified by how good your lawyer is, too. ;)

    In general, individual ideas ("boy wizard", "alien with superpowers") are not protectable. But the more detailed you get, the closer you creep to the possibility of infringement being a thing.
     
  10. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Generally as far as I know (I'm not a lawyer) ideas aren't copyrightable. Neither are sugestions. And to add to that if youask for help and someone gives you an idea, then they have done so freely. There was no implied contract etc. No one saidyou can try this but if you do you owe me monies. So you're mostly safe.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  11. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    Another point -- if you absolutely want to protect your work, then you should register it with the U.S. copyright office after "publication" (posting on a forum would count as publication) so that you are eligible for statutory damages. Especially for self-published people. Problem is that this can get cumbersome and expensive quickly -- imagine doing it with every draft. So putting your work out on a forum entails a certain level of risk.
     
  12. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    And the judge you draw :)
     
  13. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    If you're not a US citizen (and I don't think the OP is), then you want to file for copyright in your nation of residence, not in the US. Steerpike could probably tell us more, but as I understand it most of the modern nations' copyright laws are similar, though filing requirements probably vary quite a bit.
     
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Something else, that's of totally unlegal nature, is the likelihood someone else will actually steal your idea.

    I know I'm passionate about my ideas and I assume everyone else is, to some degree, passionate about theirs. I see plenty of cool and inspiring ideas here on the forums. However, I have yet to see a single one that has made me want to drop my WIP and start over from scratch on someone else's idea (my apologies everyone, your ideas are awesome, but mine are better).

    I guess it probably could happen but I seriously doubt it. Most people are too involved with their own projects to consciously steal someone else's idea.

    Now, if I was an established best selling author with the eyes of the world peeking over my shoulder, then I'd probably be more careful, but now I'm not and I don't see myself reaching that point anytime soon (yes, eventually, but not soon). I'm speaking for myself of course, but to me it's worth more to get to share my ideas with others than to keep them hidden in case I some day make money off of them. This philosophy may of course not be shared by everyone, which I can respect, but it's not going to stop me from sharing it and trying to explain it. :)
     
  15. snabjorn

    snabjorn Dreamer

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    Thanks to everyone for replying to this! :) You are all very helpfull.
    I was mostly thinking something like if I was to ask someone to help me with an idea and they came up with something very useful, and lets say I use it in my story and it's a bestseller and I become a millionaire and this person wants to claim it as their idea to get a part of the cake - would they be entitled to then? But I think I get the idea that that would not be possible :)
     
  16. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Again, it depends on the laws where you live and publish the work, but I think without a contract giving them a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books, they'd have a hard time proving it in court.

    However, just to keep things friendly and encourage your friend to keep helping you, some small gesture of appreciation is probably a good idea. :)
     
  17. snabjorn

    snabjorn Dreamer

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    Oh yes, of course. It's not actually the case though. It's just a thought :) but if I did get that kind of idea from anyone I would definitely acknowledge it! You just never know if that's enough for people.
     
  18. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" is based off the research of two historical scholars (Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh) in their book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail".

    There were other sources of research for the basis of the idea but these researchers sued Brown for his use of their research. Brown even stated that he did indeed use their concepts as a source, even going so far as to name characters with anagrams of the researcher names (Sir Teabing). Anyway, they did not win the suit against Brown.

    I'm no lawyer either, but it seems to me that it's the execution of a story that'd be protected and not general concepts.
     
  19. Helen

    Helen Sage

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    Wga.org has good guidelines. They have a credit arbitration process.

    Applies to film, but there are...written by, story by, screenplay by...etc credits, all leading to different financial outcomes.

    The story goes that Roger Avery helped Tarantino write Pulp Fiction but that Avery was offered story by credit or nothing.

    Lawyer up.
     
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  20. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Who knows, maybe I'm hopelessly naïve, but I tend to go with the theory that we're all adults and professionals on this site and act accordingly. On the very rare occasion I run across an idea another writer tosses out that I love and want to use - and believe me, we throw ideas like snowballs around here - I just ask to use it. The most recent example was a conversation that happened in Chat where the guys were making up funny names for gay night clubs. (OK, yeah, I said "adult' - so I was exaggerating.) Svrt tossed the name "Members Only" out there, and I thought it was hilarious. My writing partner and I write urban fantasy, and it was a perfect fit for our world, so I asked him if I could have it. He said "Sure," and now our fictional city has a new nightclub. I've also stolen, with explicit permission, forum member names for later use for characters.

    I share our ideas for our world here on this forum without concern that someday someone will "steal" anything from us. How can they? It's our voice, our characters, our unique execution that makes it ours. Trust me, Harry Potter in my hands would be a vastly different story than Rowling's version, and most likely unrecognizable.
     
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