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Craft Techniques and Processes Discussion of the techniques and processes we use to write, create art, take photos, etc.

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Old Oct 10 2011, 02:24 PM   #1
mawra
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Default copyright questiion

I am working on a story. I have gotten several idea from Mercedes Lackey books. When does it be come copyright infrigment.

I used ideas like what to take for trade items.

Also in one place a gryphon is playing with some kids. That happened in one of her books. I put it in my own words.
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Old Oct 25 2011, 02:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: copyright questiion

You can't copyright an idea. You can only copyright a particular implementation of it.

If your gryphon looks like Lackey's, and acts like hers, and lives in a world that's essentially hers with only the slightest of things changed, then you're infringing.

But if you take gryphons and, oh, put them in space, or make them feathered reptiles that evolved naturally rather than magical constructs made by an Urtho-analog, you're moving far enough away from Lackey that the implementation is your own.

Have you read Naomi Novik's Temeraire series? She flat out takes the idea of intelligent dragons working with riders in a quasi-military setting from Anne McCaffrey. I think she might have even written Pern fanfic at one point; she IS a Pern fan. But her world is SOOO different from Pern (since it's an alternate earth during the Napoleonic wars) that she's not infringing. It becomes, instead, a sort of long-winded literary answer to AMC's dragons. AMC's even reviewed Novik's books, and liked them!

So. Yes, you can take ideas. But you want to transform them into something of your own, add in things that are uniquely yours. A thinly re-painted cover won't do.

Edit: Also, one thing...it's better to go to a source than to make a copy of a copy. Meaning...if you took Lackey's idea of trade items, your own story is limited by what SHE came up with, and you're missing on possibilities that she didn't think of, or that she decided not to use. But if you jump over to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Currency you can start to get an idea of the real-world facts she based her own information on. That's often a much richer source than a fiction book.
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Old Oct 25 2011, 07:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: copyright questiion

My story takes place on a defferent realm than Earth. In it a group needs to go on a journey in which the have to go through a area not friendly to the group. They pose as traders, but do not want to weigh themselves down a whole lot. I got some of what they take from one of Lackey's books. It makes since that they would take spices, dyes, beads and other small trade items.
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Old Oct 26 2011, 02:57 AM   #4
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Default Re: copyright questiion

Quote:
Originally Posted by mawra View Post
My story takes place on a defferent realm than Earth. In it a group needs to go on a journey in which the have to go through a area not friendly to the group. They pose as traders, but do not want to weigh themselves down a whole lot. I got some of what they take from one of Lackey's books. It makes since that they would take spices, dyes, beads and other small trade items.
High value items, yes. But if you want to make it plausible, make sure that the trade route itself makes sense. Can they pick those items up easily? Can they sell them on at a profit on the other side? To make it work, they genuinely need to BE traders, at least on a surface level. They also need to choose something that isn't TOO valuable to the bad guys. Otherwise they'll just get mugged and abandoned in the wilderness. Spices, dyes - they could be easily carried off and sold on.

How about stinking magic-skunk oil? Something small, unpleasant and perishable, that can be used as a pharmaceutical, but still requires expert processing before it's in a useful form that the bad guys would be tempted to nick. Or something like fine steel needles, or silk threads - things that the likely fairly militaristic bad guys would have little use for. Or custom-made decorative headdresses for the Festival of the Great Goddess Uguysaredumb. What, you've not heard of her? Don't celebrate it in these parts? Well, you're missing out, but we DO have a deadline to meet here...

The possibilities are endless. Be imaginative!

Otherwise, the not-so-friendly guys are going to see through their ruse quicker than you can say 'Kill the Imposters!'
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Old Oct 26 2011, 11:11 AM   #5
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Default Re: copyright questiion

Mostly the advoid town. There are times they must go into a town.

The idea of having them deal with thiefs is a good one. Mostly people advoid strangers. The place they travel through has a very evil queen. Strangers could mean trouble.

They did take herbs to use as trade items.
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Old Nov 2 2011, 10:43 PM   #6
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Default Re: copyright questiion

Regarding the original question:

COPYRIGHT protects the work in total. If you plagiarize (copy verbatim or copy with only minor tweaks), you are in violation of the copyright. Copyright exists the moment the work is created and extends, currently, to life of the author + 95 years. (And really, I think that is as FAR as Disney can possibly push their court cases--they keep suing to move the bar as their earliest cartoons come into the public domain.) You can use short clips of a work in academic or parody settings. You can't take big pieces, change a few words, and call it yours.

You CANNOT copyright: ideas, character or place names, titles, plots.

TRADEMARK must be specifically registered, and it protects an individual product--a name, a title, a depiction of a character. "The Dragonriders of Pern" (the title/phrase) is a registered trademark. As is "Droid"--if you read the fine print in the phone commercials they had to get Lucasfilm's permission to use the name.

Every high-fantasy author and their brother has probably written about traders of small portable high-value items. As anyone who has studied real history knows, that's because they make logical sense and have been used throughout human civilization as trade goods. Just make sure the type of spice or gem or fabric makes sense in your story's context.

Putting a gryphon in your book is absolutely fine. Lackey didn't invent them, by a factor of centuries. Can look exactly like every other depiction of a gryphon, too. What you CANNOT, or rather SHOULD not do, is basically rewrite a scene she wrote. Even tweaking it to your own words. You also should not have gryphons who live in the same social structure, speak in the same way, as the gryphons in the Valdemar novels (I'm assuming you're talking about the Mage Wars type gryphons?)

Novik took the very general idea of 'person is bound somehow to dragon, they fly and fight things.' Then she went "What if..." What if...there's no telepathic bond, the dragons are just very picky about their partner, and they speak because they're as intelligent or more than humans? What if...they're not all one species? What if they don't ALL breathe fire? What if....they're not an alien planet or a fantasy world, but fighting battles in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars? At that point, about all she has left in common with her inspiration is "dragons, with people on them, who fight something."

If you want an example of what you really shouldn't do even if it's basically legal, see "Ergaon." There is a reason some of us who are sarcastically inclined read it and halfway through said (in Crow T. Robot's voice): "HEY! This is a lot like Star Wars' plot! In Middle Earth! With Dragonriders!" Don't just file the serial numbers off a plot and make it IN SPACE! (or Regency England, or Fantasy Earth, or whatever.)
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Old Nov 3 2011, 11:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: copyright questiion

I knew copyright was not the right work. My mind went blank.

I change the scene I was wondering about.

Thanks for all the help.
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