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#1 KC Rivers

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 06:36 PM

Ms. Kole, thank you so much for your valuable time.

I’ve noticed a recent trend in the young adult genre. Authors have started using characters and places that have previously been published and have given them a new environment and/or twist. Frank Beddor, for example, took the characters and storyline from Alice in Wonderland and made it a completely new and adventurous series. Even Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series made Greek mythology suddenly very “cool.” The bright side is that this style of writing makes teens and tweens interested in classic literature, but what sort of creative license is allowed in using existing literary characters? Are there special rights/royalties that have to be considered?

I would think that names like Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, etc. are copyrighted, so I’m curious what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to creating your own twist on these classic stories. Are agents at all interested in this style of writing?

#2 Mary Kole

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 08:48 AM

The most successful ones of these don't take the very literary approach of saying "Wonderland" or "Huckleberry Finn." They are inspired by characters or themes from classic works to do something new. You don't want to tread too closely to these names, not just for copyright reasons, but for reasons of wanting to bring something to the table as a writer. A publisher will not be interested in a rewritten "Balice in Monderland" book that is pretty much the original but in your words. They want you to be inspired and bring something to the tale. In terms of copyright, a lot of the classics are in public domain, or if they are not, will enter into the public domain, like THE SECRET GARDEN did in 1987. However, some things have public domain exemptions, like the original play of PETER PAN. So if you're going to borrow very closely from any classic work, do your homework and make sure you can!

If you don't do your due diligent research in terms of copyright or any other kind of legal consideration, you're on the hook for any potential lawsuits, not your publisher!

#3 kellyann

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 12:24 PM

I had a copyright question regarding use of song lyrics and titles in my book and was directed to www.copyright.gov that may have your answer
It’s never too late to shoot for the stars regardless of who you are- Nickelback

#4 exBureaucrat

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 12:30 PM

Can I change the names/places in my nonfiction satirical memoir and still have it be considered nonfiction?

#5 KC Rivers

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 03:00 PM

The most successful ones of these don't take the very literary approach of saying "Wonderland" or "Huckleberry Finn." They are inspired by characters or themes from classic works to do something new. You don't want to tread too closely to these names, not just for copyright reasons, but for reasons of wanting to bring something to the table as a writer. A publisher will not be interested in a rewritten "Balice in Monderland" book that is pretty much the original but in your words. They want you to be inspired and bring something to the tale. In terms of copyright, a lot of the classics are in public domain, or if they are not, will enter into the public domain, like THE SECRET GARDEN did in 1987. However, some things have public domain exemptions, like the original play of PETER PAN. So if you're going to borrow very closely from any classic work, do your homework and make sure you can!

If you don't do your due diligent research in terms of copyright or any other kind of legal consideration, you're on the hook for any potential lawsuits, not your publisher!


That answers my question perfectly, thank you! I actually didn't know that some classic works were considered public domain, so that's very helpful information. Would an agent be able to help an author research to see if special permissions are needed for their work? (This is assuming the agent has already agreed to represent the author, of course.) I know that I can research some on my own, but I just don't know the industry the same way that a good agent does.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to help us with these topics! It is much appreciated.

#6 Mary Kole

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 02:30 PM

Hmmm, exBureaucrat. I don't quite know the answer to your question. Some names and places change in non-fiction, but often for legal or safety reasons. But satire does thrive on thinly veiled references, so I'm sure you can do it. Maybe pitch it just as a "satire" to avoid the label question.




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