PDA

View Full Version : Legal Advice for a parody of a copyrighted novel.



IGLOOGREENHOUSE
08-25-2016, 05:52 AM
Hi, firstly I wasn't sure where to ask this, my apologies if this isn't in the right section. I've begun work on a fictional novel which parodies Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse by setting it in the survival/horror genre. Researching the novel today, I saw that the copyright for Woolf's novel was renewed until 2023. Obviously I don't want to wait 6 years to write and potentially publish the novel, so I'm looking for copyright/legal advice.

My plan (before discovering the copyright renewal) was to tell an original horror themed story that borrowed characters, plot points, setting, and themes from To the Lighthouse. I however wasn't intending on ever directly appropriating excerpts from the text. I'm however still worried that using characters/setting etc from Woolf, despite the protections of my work being a parody, could potentially get me sued by the Woolf estate, publisher, or lower my chances of finding publication in the first place.

Any advice is appreciated, thank you.

Marlys
08-25-2016, 09:14 AM
Disclaimer: not a lawyer, and the internet is not a substitute for consulting one. But claiming something is parody doesn't keep you from getting sued, and the parody aspects aren't clear from your description. Sounds like a straight-up horror novel using Woolf's characters, setting, etc., which would probably fall under derivative work, not parody. Why risk an expensive lawsuit, even if you might eventually win? My advice would be to write it, shelve it for a few years, and start shopping it a year or two before TtL's copyright expires, with the plan that it hits the shelves when it's fully legal. Six years isn't that long, especially when at least a few of those will be devoted to writing and shopping the novel.

cornflake
08-25-2016, 10:27 AM
Hi, firstly I wasn't sure where to ask this, my apologies if this isn't in the right section. I've begun work on a fictional novel which parodies Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse by setting it in the survival/horror genre. Researching the novel today, I saw that the copyright for Woolf's novel was renewed until 2023. Obviously I don't want to wait 6 years to write and potentially publish the novel, so I'm looking for copyright/legal advice.

My plan (before discovering the copyright renewal) was to tell an original horror themed story that borrowed characters, plot points, setting, and themes from To the Lighthouse. I however wasn't intending on ever directly appropriating excerpts from the text. I'm however still worried that using characters/setting etc from Woolf, despite the protections of my work being a parody, could potentially get me sued by the Woolf estate, publisher, or lower my chances of finding publication in the first place.

Any advice is appreciated, thank you.

No one here can give you legal advice - you need a lawyer experienced in literary issues if you really want to pursue this.

In general though, using characters, plot points, etc., can certainly violate copyright. You don't have to take actual chunks of text. As well, whether something has fair use exemption as parody or satire is determined only by a court. You can absolutely be sued -- the only way to prove your case is to prove your case, which can be expensive.

gavintonks
08-25-2016, 11:11 AM
write to them and ask them if its ok - how would you feel if someone did the same to your work without asking?

stephenf
08-25-2016, 01:23 PM
Hi
I'm not exactly sure what your story will look like and what you are asking . Using other writers work as inspiration is not uncommon. Plagiarism happens and it has destroyed a few writers lives for doing it . Copyright infringement is uncommon , because the consequences can be financially ruinous .

BenPanced
08-25-2016, 04:13 PM
Disclaimer: not a lawyer, and the internet is not a substitute for consulting one. But claiming something is parody doesn't keep you from getting sued, and the parody aspects aren't clear from your description.

How The Wind Done Gone, a parody of Gone With The Wind, fared with Margaret Mitchell's estate: the author and her publisher were sued. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_Done_Gone)

And who's to say Woolf's estate won't renew the copyright once more?

Cath
08-25-2016, 05:14 PM
I strongly recommend seeking a lawyer expert in this area and paying for their advice.

There are reasons we don't recommend asking for legal advice online - you have no idea who the respondent is or how good their advice is and no recourse if it's bad.