How many plot elements make it theft
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Posted by Della Morse on May 27, 2001 at 02:25:28:
Years ago a boyfriend from another country told me repeatedly about his favorite play. Seeing a news feature with one of the same elements sparked a mystery plot idea for me. My plot idea owes so much to two (but only two) elements from this play that I'd feel wrong not acknowledging the play, yet I don't know whether these two elements are enough to constitute intellectual property I must seek the rights from the author to use.
One element is that the main character is a partial witness concerning a murder--enough of a witness to worry the murderer, enough of a witness to convince the police he knows more than he's telling (although he really doesn't), but not enough to catch the murderer.
The other element--the crucial element that makes this common idea into something potentially interesting--is the unique profession of the main character.
I have never seen, read or heard this play and would not be using any of the other few elements described to me by my old boyfriend. Are two elements few enough to be able to say, "Such-and-such sparked the idea for me," but not have to hire lawyers, go through international negotiations, and get permission to use these elements in a new story?
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