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Author Topic: Updated Novel Question  (Read 950 times)

Becky Sharpe

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Updated Novel Question
« on: 03-01-17 at 05:32 pm »

Say, if I took the plot of "Pride and Prejudice", set it in the 1950's in the U.S., and changed the ending, would that be considered copyright infringement?  I understand that plots cannot be copyrighted, but if I have my characters closely follow the plot of the novel, is that different?
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MYK

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Re: Updated Novel Question
« Reply #1 on: 03-02-17 at 02:36 am »

"Pride and Prejudice" was written in 1813, so it is long out of copyright.

If you were to use a more recent novel, you could run into copyright difficulties with reusing the characters, which is how the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate maintained control of the Holmes/Watson characters and settings until the copyrights started expiring a few years ago.
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"The life of a patent solicitor has always been a hard one."  Judge Giles Rich, Application of Ruschig, 379 F.2d 990.

Disclaimer: not only am I not a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer.  Therefore, this does not constitute legal advice.

Becky Sharpe

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Re: Updated Novel Question
« Reply #2 on: 03-02-17 at 11:50 am »

I was looking into an author's webpage and this author wanted to do an adaptation of Les Miserables (1862, I believe), but was having fits trying to discover if it was public domain.  It seems that Hugo's heirs still have copyright--or some rights, just not sure.  How can I research and discover for sure that there are no Austen heirs still fighting for copyright?

Thanks for your help!
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Robert K S

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Re: Updated Novel Question
« Reply #3 on: 03-02-17 at 12:13 pm »

French copyright law is rather different from law in the U.S. and U.K.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_France

France has something called "moral rights" which last forever and which include the right to prevent modification, which, I am speculating here, may include the right to enjoin adaptations.  I don't know if these rights would be enforceable outside of French jurisdiction.  You'll want to talk to an attorney with some expertise if you're worried about copyright issues having international implications.
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This post is made in the context of professional discussion of general patent law issues and nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice.

Robert K S

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Re: Updated Novel Question
« Reply #4 on: 03-02-17 at 12:24 pm »

Here's some articles about a Hugo family attempt to sue over a Les Mis sequel.  (They lost in the end.)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jan/31/books.france

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soci%C3%A9ti%C3%A9_Plon_et_autres_v._Pierre_Hugo_et_autres
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This post is made in the context of professional discussion of general patent law issues and nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice.

Becky Sharpe

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Re: Updated Novel Question
« Reply #5 on: 03-09-17 at 03:36 pm »

Thank you for the links to the articles.  This is a tricky business indeed.  This is from Wiki and is about a derivative work:  "The transformation, modification or adaptation of the work must be substantial and bear its author's personality to be original and thus protected by copyright."  I think this is saying that as long as the changes I make are substantial and "my personality" is there, the adaptation will be fine.  I do not follow the plot exactly and obviously there are many differences between 1950's America and Jane Austen's UK.  Nothing is quoted verbatim.  The plot is derivative, but nothing else.
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artchain

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Re: Updated Novel Question
« Reply #6 on: 03-09-17 at 04:57 pm »

Thank you for the links to the articles.  This is a tricky business indeed.  This is from Wiki and is about a derivative work:  "The transformation, modification or adaptation of the work must be substantial and bear its author's personality to be original and thus protected by copyright."  I think this is saying that as long as the changes I make are substantial and "my personality" is there, the adaptation will be fine.  I do not follow the plot exactly and obviously there are many differences between 1950's America and Jane Austen's UK.  Nothing is quoted verbatim.  The plot is derivative, but nothing else.

You are misunderstanding the meaning of derivative works.  If a work is derived from another, and adds substantial creative effort, then it may be eligible for copyright protection.  However, it might still be in violation of the copyright on the original work.  In other words, your work could not be copied without your permission, but you could not distribute it without the original author's permission.
 



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