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Bartholomew
11-13-2006, 01:30 AM
A friend of mine is "barrowing" ideas from my novels.

He wants to make video games or board games or some such. I have confidence that none of this will ever come to fruition.

But it's the principle of the thing, and I explained this to him-- "These are my ideas, you can't use them."

So now he's using the ideas and changing the name.

<Sigh>

What should I do?

Nickie
11-13-2006, 01:35 AM
Have you got copyright on your novels, Bartholomew? In that case, nobody can "borrow" ideas without your agreement (and most likely, you should get money for it). In the other case, well... not much you can do. The other guy can just claim this are his ideas. So make sure you've got copyright on what you write, even when not published. It's not that expensive, and it can save you a lot of trouble.


Nickie

K1P1
11-13-2006, 01:46 AM
In the US, the writer holds the copyright as soon as the words are recorded in any medium (for example, paper, digital text, audio recording). It is only necessary to register the copyright in order to sue somebody over it.

Even so, you only hold the copyright to the expression of your ideas, not the ideas themselves. If he copies chunks of your novel word-for-word, then he's infringing on your copyright. If he's just using ideas, then there is no copyright involved.

Names of characters and titles of books can't be copyrighted. They can, however be tradmarked. I don't know enough about trademark law to comment, but unless you want to hire a lawyer and trademark your characters for some future line of action figures, animated features, etc., then there's not much you can do, especially if your "friend" is changing their names.

It seems to me that there are two things you should do.
1) tell your friend you are happy for him to use your ideas and characters, however they represent assets related to your writing and you want a percentage of whatever his profit (gross or net, you decide) is if he commercializes his games.
2) don't show him your writing or tell him anything else about it.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is just my simple understanding of some very complex legal issues.

ETA: If he's doing this for academic credit, you can charge him with plagiarism. :D

Bartholomew
11-13-2006, 01:57 AM
In the US, the writer holds the copyright as soon as the words are recorded in any medium (for example, paper, digital text, audio recording). It is only necessary to register the copyright in order to sue somebody over it.

Even so, you only hold the copyright to the expression of your ideas, not the ideas themselves. If he copies chunks of your novel word-for-word, then he's infringing on your copyright. If he's just using ideas, then there is no copyright involved.

Names of characters and titles of books can't be copyrighted. They can, however be tradmarked. I don't know enough about trademark law to comment, but unless you want to hire a lawyer and trademark your characters for some future line of action figures, animated features, etc., then there's not much you can do, especially if your "friend" is changing their names.

It seems to me that there are two things you should do.
1) tell your friend you are happy for him to use your ideas and characters, however they represent assets related to your writing and you want a percentage of whatever his profit (gross or net, you decide) is if he commercializes his games.
2) don't show him your writing or tell him anything else about it.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is just my simple understanding of some very complex legal issues.

ETA: If he's doing this for academic credit, you can charge him with plagiarism. :D

Heh.

He's using a lot of words I made up for species and stuff, as well as the over all premise of another book altogether.

I'd have little trouble proving I made some of this up.

What did Preyer call it...?

Bolongium. :D

Medievalist
11-13-2006, 03:42 AM
His games, if they are that closely tied to your novels would be derivative works. The ideas are not copyrightable; words are.

Mac H.
11-13-2006, 04:28 AM
I'd have little trouble proving I made some of this up.That's easy.

Send him a nice email, implying that you are getting excited over the opportunity to have your vision done as a game.

Ask him what bits from your novel he'll be using in the game.

He'll reply.

Presto - you'll now have proof .. and his acknowledgment that his is a derivative work.

Underhanded. But it works.

Mac.

JaneyJay
11-13-2006, 04:35 AM
Hi Bartholomew!

I know a little about trademark/patent law (I am not, however, a trademark attorney) and when you said that you made up names to different species, I thought this may be something you would want to look into. You could apply for a service mark on some of your species, for instance, as long as their names were distinctive--the BibbityBobbityBoo Lizard could be service marked by you including, (if you have them) drawings. However, service or trademarks will cost you between 275.00 and 325.00 per mark so they are costly. The only reason I would do that if I were you would be if, on the off chance, this "friend" did end up with a game based on the name of one of your characters. With the service mark in place, you could then prove that this species was yours before he produced the game. Either that or tell him if he does go forward, he has to cut you in. ;)

Tallymark
11-13-2006, 04:51 AM
I'd say its definately time to stop sharing your work with him. You've expressed your wishes for him to stop stealing and he has disregarded them..that's not only unprofessional, it's not really a very good friend. (this isn't to say you should stop being friends, just that it is not something a good friend ought to do). A friend and an artist of any medium ought to understand that writers get very attached to their work...when I make up a species, I put a lot of thought and heart into it. They're mine. Changing the name doesn't change a thing! If I write about a human-based species of short stature and furry feet, and I call them Mini-men, I'm still a thief (and a lame one at that XD ).

I'd try explaining again though and making it clear how serious this is to you--not only does it jeapardize your future works should his games actually amount to something, but it is hurtful. Appeal to him as a friend. If he respects you, he ought to respect your work--and respect does not include 'creative borrowing'. Besides, if he ever wants to amount to anything in the game business, he needs to learn to come up with his own ideas.

If he won't listen and you don't want to go through legalities, tell him you want a cut of whatever he makes--and get it in writing. However, I know I'd still find that to be little consolation...it's the principle of the thing. What's yours is yours, and you shouldn't be the one who has to make concessions.

K1P1
11-13-2006, 06:50 AM
However, service or trademarks will cost you between 275.00 and 325.00 per mark so they are costly.

Actually, like copyright, trademarks only cost you if you register them. If you consider a species or a name a trademark, just put the little TM (superscript) symbol next to each occurrence of the name in your work. Print out a dated copy and make a record of when you first used the name as a trademark. Make sure that he knows you consider it a trademark.

If you want to litigate over it, you now have proof of when you first created the mark and started using it. If you want to litigate, you need to register the mark, and that's where you run into money, for a lawyer, for searching to see if it's already trademarked by someone else, and registering it. Once it's registered, then you use the little R in a circle instead of the TM, indicating that it's a registered trademark.

Again - not a lawyer and this is based on my own research into trademarks.

K1P1
11-13-2006, 06:50 AM
Send him a nice email, implying that you are getting excited over the opportunity to have your vision done as a game.

Ask him what bits from your novel he'll be using in the game.

He'll reply.

Presto - you'll now have proof .. and his acknowledgment that his is a derivative work.

Yep - good idea.