Author Topic: A question about Copyrights  (Read 1045 times)

Offline RickH

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A question about Copyrights
« on: July 17, 2008, 05:34:55 PM »
Hello

I am a fan of HP Lovecraft, and have written several short stories based on his work.
There are certain elements that are original Lovecraft ideas and themes, for instance The Necronomicon, Cthulhu among others, and I was wondering if I would be infringing on copyrights if i were to use these in a story?

In particular interest in this regard I found this paragraph in WIKIPEDIA

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Questions center over whether copyrights for Lovecraft's works were ever renewed under the terms of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 for works created prior to January 1, 1978. The problem comes from the fact that before the Copyright Act of 1976 the number of years a work was copyrighted in the U.S. was based on publication rather than life of the author plus a certain number of years and that it was only good for 28 years with one renewal for an additional 28 years.

The Copyright Act of 1976 retroactively extended the renewal period for all works to a period of 47 years[22] and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added another 20 years to that, for a total of 95 years from publication.

Similarly, the European Union Directive on harmonising the term of copyright protection of 1993 extended the copyrights to 70 years after the author's death.

So, all works of Lovecraft published during his lifetime, became public domain in all 27 European Union countries on 1 January, 2008.

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I live in the united States. Any advice on using Lovecrafts ideas and plot devices in my own works?

-Rick
You Never know how Bright you are, Until you have met TRUE Darkness.

Offline robertmblevins

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Re: A question about Copyrights
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2008, 03:22:00 AM »
Rick asks, in part:

Quote
'Any advice on using Lovecrafts ideas and plot devices in my own works?'

Yes. Don't do it.

Readers will rake you over the coals mercilessly, since THEY will see you copied some of Lovecraft's devices and ideas.

His work is so well known that this is a given.


Offline Nick

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Re: A question about Copyrights
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2008, 04:17:22 AM »
There is no copyright on ideas, only on the form of words in which they are expressed.

So borrowing one or two ideas from Lovecraft is very unlikely to result in legal action against you, although as Robert says, knowledgeable Lovecraft readers may be disparaging.

Personally, though, I don't think it will be a problem if you adapt Lovecraft's ideas and plot devices rather than simply copy them slavishly. For example, the whole hard-boiled detective novel genre started with Dashiell Hammett's 'Sam Spade' novel, The Maltese Falcon. This in turn was a strong influence on Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlow novels, and the style is still highly influential in both books and TV/films today (The Singing Detective by Dennis Potter, for example).

So my advice would be to study Lovecraft's work by all means, but adapt his ideas and plot devices so that they are indisputably your own - your stories will be all the better for this anyway. To appease the hardcore Lovecraft fans, you can always dedicate your book to him, or (in the case of shorter works) refer to him in the story. This will also serve to demonstrate that you acknowledge his influence on your work.

Hope that helps,

Nick  :)
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Re: A question about Copyrights
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2008, 08:11:42 AM »
What Nick said.  Remember, there's inspiration and then there's plagiarism. 

Wolfe

Offline RickH

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Re: A question about Copyrights
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2008, 09:56:24 AM »
Thank you for the replies.

Yes I don't wish to copy his works. But I would like to throw in perhaps a story involving another unfortunate life ruined lets say by a cult of Cthulhu or the Necronomicon.

I appreciate the input
You Never know how Bright you are, Until you have met TRUE Darkness.