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Simran
07-06-2005, 08:16 AM
Is it possible for someone to take a character from a book and rewrite the story from that character's point of view? What copyright laws apply to this? What if the book was written in another country from 1908-1921?


thank you

Torgo
07-06-2005, 04:52 PM
If it's still in copyright, you'd need to get the permission of the copyright holder to produce a derivative work. The term of copyright is something like the lifetime of the author + 75 years (I can't quite remember the exact law - you could do some googling or ask someone better qualified than me; Jaws on this board seems to be the person.) You'd probably find that the book you're talking about is still in copyright, I'm afraid.

Copyright laws do differ between countries but the US laws are the best rule of thumb. They're the least accommodating I know of, especially since the recent Disney-backed amendment.

MadScientistMatt
07-06-2005, 07:24 PM
There was a recent book in the news where they did something similar. The Wind Done Gone is a book that came out recently telling the story from Gone With the Wind from a very different point of view. There was something of a legal battle over that one as it seems the author didn't get permission. I can't recall how it was settled, but the book is still in print.

AprilBoo
07-07-2005, 11:14 PM
This was done with the novel Lolita - an Italian writer re-told the events of the story from Lolita's point of view. The author and the Nabokov's estate had a big falling out over it. If I remember correctly, the book was published in several European countries without copyright permission being obtained, but when it was to be published in English the author finally asked for the rights. They were granted, but begrudingly, because Nabokov's son took it as an insult that the project had gone forward without the estate's consent in the first place. The estate had apparently granted rights to use characters before.

Your safest bet is to secure copyright permission, if not for the legal reasons, just as a courtesy to the author.

Simran
07-08-2005, 05:16 AM
Thank you all for your helpful replies to my question. What if the author is no longer alive? How do you find out who owns the copyright then?

Jamesaritchie
07-08-2005, 06:27 AM
If the book in question is still under copyright, you can only do this if you parady the original book. This is how "The Wind Done Gone" was allowed to be published.

If the book is in the public domain, you can do pretty much anything you want, in any way you want.

Torgo
07-08-2005, 03:30 PM
If they've been dead for less than seventy years or so, it's probably still owned by their Estate. You could contact their publisher (who would certainly know) or the Society of Authors. If the book is out of copyright, you're probably OK. The thing is, you must ask an expert - i.e. a lawyer who deals with IP - to be sure.
Tracking down copyright holders can sometimes be tricky, which is why you sometimes see those disclaimers on the copyright page saying 'we tried, but couldn't find the holder'.

smallthunder
07-08-2005, 06:21 PM
If the book in question is still under copyright, you can only do this if you parady the original book. This is how "The Wind Done Gone" was allowed to be published.

If the book is in the public domain, you can do pretty much anything you want, in any way you want.

Permit me to elaborate a bit on Jamesaritchie's comment ...

Many people mistakely believe that U.S. copyright protection is the first and last word -- not so, for the principle of Fair Use trumps copyright -- if certain conditions are met.

Fair Use provisions -- the compromise between providing an incentive for people to create things (i.e. to profit from their creations via copyrights/patents/etc) and providing for the advancement of society through the free flow of information.

So, for example, a critic generally cannot be successfully sued for copyright violation for quoting the book (etc) he or she is critiquing. A comedian generally cannot be successfully sued for copyright violation for using the melody of a song when he or she re-write the lyrics for a political satire show.

I am qualifying my comments with the word "generally" because only a court can determine if a specific case satisfies the conditions of Fair Use. For example -- Did the accused financially profit at the plaintiff's expense? Was the accused using the copyrighted material for educational purposes? journalistic purposes? Did the accused use only as much of the copyrighted material as necessary (minimum possible)? etc etc

So, yes, "The Wind Done Gone" was successfully defended against charges of copyright infringement in court based on the Fair Use provisions regarding parody.

Simran
07-08-2005, 11:42 PM
Thank you all again for your quick and helpful replies. Well, I found out that it's only been 63 years since the author's death and the only son has since died as well. So, back to the drawing board to find out whom to go to next. :Shrug:

AprilBoo
07-09-2005, 12:43 AM
I'm not sure, but my guess would be a grandchild - if the rights became the son's property when the author died as part of the estate, they would become the grandson's property when the son died.

I could be completely wrong about that though.

Christine N.
07-09-2005, 02:16 AM
Wicked comes to mind.

Simran
07-09-2005, 07:03 PM
I'm not sure, but my guess would be a grandchild - if the rights became the son's property when the author died as part of the estate, they would become the grandson's property when the son died.

I could be completely wrong about that though.

Thanks April. With a little research I found a contact person who handles the questions about the public domain of the author's works and so forth. Hopefully we'll get a positive answer. :)