PDA

View Full Version : Would This Be Wrong?



October
12-10-2008, 09:36 AM
Okay, so I kinda know the answer, but I'm also in between so I need some smart people to help me do the right thing.

Would it be wrong to take ideas (for use w/o credit) someone gave to you if that person is. . . not all right?

I met this guy online. He had some great ideas about imaginary tech to use in stories. He has awesome characters, too. I asked him if I could use them for fun and he told me I can have them forever because he doesn't want them any more.

But he's messed up. He says his gender is male, but he's really a female, but also a dragon/fox/thing in his soul. He sounds pretty depressed too because he's always emailing me teling me about it. He also has the weirdest, sickest fetishes. His babyfur fetis really scares me. He says his favorite toys are zetas (don't know what those are, then I wouldn't ask.)

I asked him twice if he was sure and he said yes, but then later he emailed about talking to his dragon/fox/thing form like it was standing there. I'm worried about him, and I'd really like to keep the stuff he gave me, but I think he's too messed up in the head to know what he's doing.

Nurrr, it's a case of 'I really, really want it' and 'it's not mine because. . . '. Maybe I should report him to somebody?

Topaz044
12-10-2008, 10:11 AM
Here's my advice, might not be right.

Stay away from this man. No need to report him-if he is really that disturbed in real life, someone closer to him will notice shortly. Do not respond to his e-mails, and do not steal his ideas. Just cut yourself off entirely. You'll 1) Not feel guilty 2) Probably be better off in the long run.

tehuti88
12-10-2008, 08:02 PM
Are his ideas really so original and unique that you can't modify them in such a way that they're unique/original to you instead of him? Almost anything can be made new if it's tweaked enough.

It might be a matter of just mulling it over a good long while.

As for the guy, there are unfortunately lots of people like this online. I would not outright use his (her?) ideas because it could be regrettable. But there's no reason to report him (it?--them??) right now. What has he done aside from being unstable?

Darzian
12-10-2008, 08:09 PM
Agreed with above two.

pconsidine
12-10-2008, 08:19 PM
What's the real concern here? I mean, an idea is not protected by copyright, only the particular expression of an idea, so there's no legal problem with using an idea that was provided by someone else.

That said, if I were to put myself in your position, I wouldn't even be able to use the ideas by now. They would be so tainted by worry that I wouldn't be able to make anything even half way decent out of them.

Go with your gut.

citymouse
12-10-2008, 08:39 PM
An idea may not fall under copyright laws but as I understand it this communication was via email. That means it was typed out. Bingo.

I believe it is unethical to use anyone's words or ideas once they have been uttered or written, especially if, as suggested, the person is somehow addled.

C

Soccer Mom
12-10-2008, 10:07 PM
He may have consented to the use of his characters and ideas, but you have good reason to know that he isn't compos mentis.

Take the idea and live with it awhile. Mess with it and play with it until it morphs into something of your own. Then take the new creation and run with it.

Oh, and stop communicating with the man. If you know someone close to him that you can report his delusion to, then by all means do so. If you don't, walk away.

pconsidine
12-10-2008, 10:27 PM
An idea may not fall under copyright laws but as I understand it this communication was via email. That means it was typed out. Bingo.Talking about an idea is not a particular expression of that idea, whether it's by email or spoken words. I've had plenty of email conversations about story ideas with people, but until someone actually writes a story based on one of those ideas, they're fair game. The story is the "particular expression of an idea" for purposes of law.

The real point of my question, though, was to find out whether the OP was more concerned about the legal ramifications of using the ideas, of which there are none, or the ethical ramifications, of which there are plenty.

Polenth
12-11-2008, 01:19 AM
It sounds like you don't like him and you don't know him well. I don't think it's a good idea to collaborate with anyone in that situation.

If you do like him and want to be friends, be more assertive about topics that disturb you. Tell him you don't want to talk about those things (like the fetishes). Or that you don't understand a certain thing and it worries you (it sounds like he's transgender and otherkin, from your description).

BenPanced
12-11-2008, 01:24 AM
S/he's rather harmless. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people like him gathering in forums and communities online. There's really nothing about hir to "report".

NeuroFizz
12-11-2008, 01:26 AM
Which way would you feel a better sense of accomplishment--if you used his character descriptions or if you used your own? General ideas are fair game because the fine points of writing them will come out way different with two different authors. Taking specific character descriptions or character traits may be a little more sticky, so I return to the question at the beginning of this post. Take pride in YOUR writing.

Cyia
12-11-2008, 01:30 AM
If you can set your email to "bounce" him/her, do it. That way it will look like your addy is no longer valid and he/she can find someone else to talk to.

October
12-11-2008, 04:25 AM
Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I've been thinking about it all day (and avoiding him). I'm not entirely sure what I'll do, but I've got plenty of stuff to think about. Until I get it sorted out, I'm going to get sick from bronchitis or something. ;)




If you can set your email to "bounce" him/her, do it. That way it will look like your addy is no longer valid and he/she can find someone else to talk to.

I'm using a Y!addy. I don't think I could do that. I might be able to set up some kind of auto message and just disappear from those places we used to hang out in. Our old hangouts are getting flooded with porn and crappy repeat artwork anyway.



Which way would you feel a better sense of accomplishment--if you used his character descriptions or if you used your own? General ideas are fair game because the fine points of writing them will come out way different with two different authors. Taking specific character descriptions or character traits may be a little more sticky, so I return to the question at the beginning of this post. Take pride in YOUR writing.


I know my writing sucks, but you're right about characters. I could probably think up some great one for myself. But we also made up a character together (a collaboration is the word, I think). Am I allowed to use that?



It sounds like you don't like him and you don't know him well. I don't think it's a good idea to collaborate with anyone in that situation.

If you do like him and want to be friends, be more assertive about topics that disturb you. Tell him you don't want to talk about those things (like the fetishes). Or that you don't understand a certain thing and it worries you (it sounds like he's transgender and otherkin, from your description).


We've known each other for about two, three months now, and I always knew he was into the hardcore furry stuff, so yeah, there's some fault on my end. And I know for sure he's an otherkin, but he's getting stressed out about it because he was too honest about who he was and now he gets people flaming him and teasing him. I'm not sure how many other people are there for him, so I don't want to leave unless he gets bad, like, from a furry-ish point of view.



. . .

Oh, and stop communicating with the man. If you know someone close to him that you can report his delusion to, then by all means do so. If you don't, walk away.


Not easy, we've sort of become half-friends. Get what I mean? Not real friends, but not walk-away friends, either.



Are his ideas really so original and unique that you can't modify them in such a way that they're unique/original to you instead of him? Almost anything can be made new if it's tweaked enough.

It might be a matter of just mulling it over a good long while.

As for the guy, there are unfortunately lots of people like this online. I would not outright use his (her?) ideas because it could be regrettable. But there's no reason to report him (it?--them??) right now. What has he done aside from being unstable?


I could probably think up mods on his ideas for my own. That even feels wrong, though. Anyway, what started worrying me is he's more depressed/weird than usual and he used to hate babyfur, the explicit stuff anyway. Now he's into it hardcore: diapers, cubbing out, etc.

ideagirl
12-11-2008, 07:32 AM
An idea may not fall under copyright laws but as I understand it this communication was via email. That means it was typed out. Bingo.

Typing out an idea doesn't stop it from being just an idea. If I type the words, "I was thinking of a story where this advertising executive is married to the first female president of the United States," that's still just an idea--if you go write a novel in which those characters exist, you owe me nothing. All I own is the phrase "I was thinking of a story..." (etc.), not the skeletal idea mentioned in it.


I believe it is unethical to use anyone's words or ideas once they have been uttered or written, especially if, as suggested, the person is somehow addled.

You could make an argument that it's unethical, but just FYI it's not illegal. Copyright does not cover mere ideas.

October
12-11-2008, 08:09 AM
Ignoring ethics, I'm beginning to think I would have legal problems. He used to draw his characters and did write a little (just descriptions) about his tech. For example, he invented these things called lanuschuypers. I dug out the description he sent me. I copy-pasted, okay?



Lanuschuypers (lah-new-sky-purrs) are liveing breatheing launch pads for space shuttles, airplanes and other space craft. They have huge flat backs and breathe through their podfeet. They sing like whales. They die if they freeze but you can set them on fire. They eat junk so you can find them in scrapyards eating iron. If you need a launchpad and theres no good place to find one then find a Lanuschuyper.


There's more, but he started talking about his dragon/fox/thing, and then there was something about slavery. Anyway, now that I'm reading your guys' thoughts, I'm realizing that there are some sticky problems.

Urgh, it's still hard for me to decide! I really want to use these ideas and characters but, damn, he's not all there right now. I feel like I'm trying to exploit the elderly or something.

I miss it when we'd talk about those cool ideas and characters, though.

Also, I had no idea that some people might consider taking ideas as some type of plagiarism. Is nothing safe anymore?

citymouse
12-11-2008, 03:13 PM
For those who think a legal problem would not arise from this please reread the original post carefully.
I ran this past a friend here who works for the #10 law firm in the US which specializes brand name/ copyright/patent litigation. Her conclusion is it could go either way, however, October's posting would be used to show that this man would have a strong case just based on that: He had ideas. He wrote them out in detail. As has been mentioned in a later post, he even illustrated some. He then shared them. They are his. It doesn't matter if his writings were fully a formed novel or fragments. They are still his.

BTW I checked this out for my own conformation. I didn't post it earlier because I'm not into sticking my finger in other people's eye. If someone disagrees with me, all well and fine but I though I'd make my point clear since it was taken up in more than one response.

C

Nakhlasmoke
12-11-2008, 03:32 PM
My suggestion is to leave their stuff alone, no matter how cool it might sound, and just come up with your own stuff.

Less stress.

KikiteNeko
12-14-2008, 06:48 AM
My .02:

This guy doesn't sound right. Now for as long as I can remember, I've had people telling me "so you're a writer? Well here's an idea for you...." and sometimes I'm given some pretty interesting ideas. But I don't base my novels off of them. Or else I use them in a smaller way, like, for instance, my character constantly has people coming up and talking to her about how a dragon on steroids might make a good book.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which went on to be a bestseller and a lifetime film, was based loosely off a true story someone "gave" to the author. And the author openly thanks that person in the acknowledgement page and there's no shame in it. So it's not unethical. Unless he wrote it down, technically it doesn't belong to anyone anyway. I could sit here and say "A story about a talking strawberry would be cool" and you could turn around and write that story. I don't think I could sue you for it (I might be wrong, though... anyone know??)

However, in the case of this particular guy, he doesn't seem all right in the head. My advice would be to leave his idea alone, and maybe write a story about some crazy guy some girl meets on the internet or something.

October
12-14-2008, 07:51 AM
Yeah, Tomo, you're probably right. I still talk to him, though, because he's got no one else. I just ignore anything he says that's too creepy. He still won't get off those zetas! Ugh, it's so gross (though I guess zetas can also be something else. But not if you're furrrrryyyyy.)

benbradley
12-14-2008, 09:33 AM
My .02:

This guy doesn't sound right. Now for as long as I can remember, I've had people telling me "so you're a writer? Well here's an idea for you...." and sometimes I'm given some pretty interesting ideas. But I don't base my novels off of them. Or else I use them in a smaller way, like, for instance, my character constantly has people coming up and talking to her about how a dragon on steroids might make a good book.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which went on to be a bestseller and a lifetime film, was based loosely off a true story someone "gave" to the author. And the author openly thanks that person in the acknowledgement page and there's no shame in it. So it's not unethical. Unless he wrote it down, technically it doesn't belong to anyone anyway. I could sit here and say "A story about a talking strawberry would be cool" and you could turn around and write that story. I don't think I could sue you for it (I might be wrong, though... anyone know??)
Welll, that's the thing, you can always sue anyone for anything, including looking at you funny and thus causing you "emotional distress" or whatever. The problem with bringing such a suit is you have to pay the lawyer (I imagine most lawyers would say "you don't have a case" perhaps mostly because they don't want to be on the losing end of a case, though some may say "but if you really want to go through with it, I'll take your money") or do all the legal filing with the court and stuff yourself.

Even a 'frivolous' lawsuit against you where you're clearly in the right can be a hassle. You still have to go to court and show the judge that it's frivolous.

This person doesn't 'sound right' and so is perhaps incapable of bring a lawsuit against anyone. On the other hand, he might be 'trolling', only acting as some weird character, hoping you'll publish something using his weird ideas so he can sue you.

However, in the case of this particular guy, he doesn't seem all right in the head. My advice would be to leave his idea alone, and maybe write a story about some crazy guy some girl meets on the internet or something.
My problem with using his ideas are as much moral as legal - it sounds like he's not in a good enough state of mind to give consent for someone else to use his ideas.

Yeah, Tomo, you're probably right. I still talk to him, though, because he's got no one else. I just ignore anything he says that's too creepy. He still won't get off those zetas! Ugh, it's so gross (though I guess zetas can also be something else. But not if you're furrrrryyyyy.)
I agree with others. Drop him like a hot potato. You're certainly not responsible for someone you've only met online, even if it's true that "he's got no one else." There's enough drama in real life without getting sucked into drama that's not yours (I learned this on the ebay boards - I had online 'friends' there I just had to drop, too much drama).

Not sure what that stuff means in your last two sentences in parentheses, though I think I have a clue, and I'd rather not know any more! If it bothers you, and it obviously does, get away. Stop trying to save him. Your greater responsibility is to take care of yourself.

ETA: Still being a bit of a drama addict, I googled those last two keywords, and ... what he's doing can easily be classified as sexual harassment. Respond to one of his emails with "Please do no email me anymore" and CC: his ISP (for example if he's got a gmail account, abuse@gmail.com should work). Anything he sends after that, just forward it to his ISP.

October
12-14-2008, 11:53 PM
I'm pretty sure he's not trolling. If he is, then he's a frickin' crazy troll. Maybe he's just being pushed eeever closer to that edge. You're probably right. I should stop talking to him. I think I'll send him an email explaining why, though, because he was sort of cool before he lost it. I'll tell him to get some help. He'll hate me, but maybe that's the best thing.

circlexranch
12-15-2008, 12:03 AM
Please don't email him and ask him to get help. If he is actually cool and just being geeky online, you could really hurt him. If he really is unstable, you could push him over the edge. I work with mentally unstable folks as clients all day long. You can't give enough, if allowed, they'll eat you alive.

As for the ideas, since he has created this lexicon, it's probably best to stay away from them. He might not do anything about it, but a friend or relative may pick it up and run with it.

Unless the copyright is registered, they really can't get anything from you except 'actual damages' and an injunction to make you stop. However, they can humiliate you [ie - you write something that is published and then you are accused of stealing the characters] and drag you through court for years. I am currently fighting off a frivolous claim of copyright infringement. No big deal, I'm a lawyer. However, it has been a pimple on my nose for almost three years.

Take a walk on this one. Let his ideas and lexicon be an inspiration to you. However, morph the concepts and ideas into your own.

benbradley
12-15-2008, 06:43 AM
Please don't email him and ask him to get help. If he is actually cool and just being geeky online, you could really hurt him. If he really is unstable, you could push him over the edge.
I agree. If you have to send a 'goodbye' email, make it a REALLY short white lie, such as "Sorry, I won't be able to get online after this email, but I didn't want to leave you hanging wondering if I fell off the edge of the Earth. Hope you're doing well, bye."

Then don't use that email/identity online anymore.

agfleenor
12-16-2008, 02:10 PM
Perhaps I've been reading a bit too much Savage Love (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove) (link=ADULT CONTENT), but having fetishes, being transgendered, and being depressed does not automatically mean that someone is mentally incompetent. He may have issues or weird tastes, but that hardly means he is not in control of his brain.

Even believing that you are otherkin (http://www.otherkin.net/articles/what.html) could be seen as similar to believing in heaven or reincarnation. It's just a less popular belief. Do we look at Hindus and think they're "messed up"? I hope not.

Despite that, it's not cool if he's sharing too much squicky information. Being those things is not bad--not respecting other people's comfort zones is bad.

In terms of whether or not to use the ideas, I would say to leave it well enough alone. It's not worth the headache.

EDIT:
Also, it's a sign of human respect to call a transgender person by the gender with which he or she identifies, regardless of how uncomfortable you are with his deep-seated suffering. JSYK.

Dave.C.Robinson
12-16-2008, 05:45 PM
I'd say pull back from the person until the communication matches your comfort level - whatever that is.

Don't use their ideas, at least not specifically. If you want biotech or living launch pads go for it: but make up your own.

Those are my 2 cents.