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public domain

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Helen_Davis
Compulsive Reader

public domain

Postby Helen_Davis » Sun July 18th, 2010, 1:36 pm

I had a professor who told me that everything that ever happened is copyrighted, and that nothing, including myths and legends or history, is in the public domain and that if I ever mentioned or based anything that I wrote about on real events or legends, I could get sued and that I can't base my writing on anything, including my real life. Is this true?
http://evaperonnovel.wordpress.com


"The first time a book has gotten us close to Evita, in all her misery and all her splendor."
Excerpt from the Spanish summary of my novel

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boswellbaxter
Bibliomaniac
Location: North Carolina
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Postby boswellbaxter » Sun July 18th, 2010, 2:07 pm

"Andromeda_Organa" wrote:I had a professor who told me that everything that ever happened is copyrighted, and that nothing, including myths and legends or history, is in the public domain and that if I ever mentioned or based anything that I wrote about on real events or legends, I could get sued and that I can't base my writing on anything, including my real life. Is this true?


That's nonsense as far as myths, legends, and historical events are concerned. Think about it: if that were the case, no one would be able to publish historical fiction dealing with real people and events without getting sued. If you're really worried about this, stick to writing about events that are way beyond anyone's living memory, or stick to alternative history or fantasy.

As for your real life, there are many authors who write heavily autobiographical fiction, and of course memoirs are very popular, but you can run into some minefields there if living people recognize themselves and consider what you've written to be defamatory or an invasion of privacy. Best not to go there unless you're backed by a major publishing house and have had the MS vetted by its legal department.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
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Ken
Compulsive Reader
Location: Truro, Cornwall, UK

Postby Ken » Sun July 18th, 2010, 2:10 pm

"Andromeda_Organa" wrote:I had a professor who told me that everything that ever happened is copyrighted, and that nothing, including myths and legends or history, is in the public domain and that if I ever mentioned or based anything that I wrote about on real events or legends, I could get sued and that I can't base my writing on anything, including my real life. Is this true?


Not everything that 'ever happened', it has to have a physical form, as the following text explains:

'Copyright protects the physical expression of ideas. As soon as an idea is given physical form, e.g. a piece of writing, a photograph, music, a film, a web page, it is protected by copyright. There is no need for registration or to claim copyright in some way, protection is automatic at the point of creation. Both published and unpublished works are protected by copyright.

Copyright is normally owned by the creator(s) of the work, e.g. an author, composer, artist, photographer etc. If the work is created in the course of a person's employment, then the copyright holder is usually the employer.

Copyright is a property right and can be sold or transferred to others. Authors of articles in academic journals, for example, frequently transfer the copyright in those articles to the journal's publisher. It is important not to confuse ownership of a work with ownership of the copyright in it: a person may have acquired an original copyright work, e.g. a painting, letter or photograph, but unless the copyright in it has expressly also been transferred, it will remain with the creator.'

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Helen_Davis
Compulsive Reader

Postby Helen_Davis » Sun July 18th, 2010, 2:11 pm

"boswellbaxter" wrote:That's nonsense as far as myths, legends, and historical events are concerned. Think about it: if that were the case, no one would be able to publish historical fiction dealing with real people and events without getting sued.

As for your real life, there are many authors who write heavily autobiographical fiction, and of course memoirs are very popular, but you can run into some minefields there if living people recognize themselves and consider what you've written to be defamatory or an invasion of privacy. Best not to go there unless you're backed by a major publishing house and have had the MS vetted by its legal department.


Ok, I see. When I tried to tell him that about the myths, legends, and history though, he told me to shut up.
http://evaperonnovel.wordpress.com





"The first time a book has gotten us close to Evita, in all her misery and all her splendor."

Excerpt from the Spanish summary of my novel

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Margaret
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Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Mon July 19th, 2010, 1:50 am

It seems as though either he misunderstood your question and/or you misunderstood his answer. Perhaps your professor meant novels based on very recent history. People can and do sue authors who write fiction that includes a character based on someone who is still living or is fairly recently deceased with living children or other close relatives, if the portrayal of that person seems defamatory. That's why you often see a disclaimer at the beginning of a novel saying that none of the characters are intended to represent actual people.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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LoveHistory
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Postby LoveHistory » Mon July 19th, 2010, 2:10 am

Anything published before 1922 (in the United States) is in the public domain. I know this from my music business.

Anything produced before copyright laws existed is in the public domain.

Some authors, artists, and others choose to put their works in the public domain so that others can use them.

That professor was not being very professional, or academic. A professor can tell you what you can or cannot write in his/her class, but that is it.

Look at all of the unauthorized biographies and other works being published about living people, and almost no law suits result. Common sense, logic, law, and fact all contradict what that professor told you.

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Helen_Davis
Compulsive Reader

Postby Helen_Davis » Mon July 19th, 2010, 12:41 pm

"Margaret" wrote:It seems as though either he misunderstood your question and/or you misunderstood his answer. Perhaps your professor meant novels based on very recent history. People can and do sue authors who write fiction that includes a character based on someone who is still living or is fairly recently deceased with living children or other close relatives, if the portrayal of that person seems defamatory. That's why you often see a disclaimer at the beginning of a novel saying that none of the characters are intended to represent actual people.


that worries me about my Evita novel then. I paid to have it translated in Argentina and it might be published there, but my portrayal of Juan Peron is neutral to slightly unfavorable and he still has relatives. I was planning to use that as a publication credit for my alternate history queries.Should I cancel the publication just to be safe?
http://evaperonnovel.wordpress.com





"The first time a book has gotten us close to Evita, in all her misery and all her splendor."

Excerpt from the Spanish summary of my novel

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Mon July 19th, 2010, 4:39 pm

Andromeda, you should never take legal advice from anyone other than a lawyer, and I'm not a lawyer (nor, I gather, is your professor). If you're truly concerned about this, it would be best for you to consult a lawyer who specializes in entertainment law, copyright issues and the like.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Helen_Davis
Compulsive Reader

Postby Helen_Davis » Mon July 19th, 2010, 8:36 pm

"Margaret" wrote:Andromeda, you should never take legal advice from anyone other than a lawyer, and I'm not a lawyer (nor, I gather, is your professor). If you're truly concerned about this, it would be best for you to consult a lawyer who specializes in entertainment law, copyright issues and the like.


all right. I asked my Argentine translator, but she answered in Spanish, so I'm not entirely sure about the details, so I'm going to ask some of my bilangual friends to tell me.
http://evaperonnovel.wordpress.com





"The first time a book has gotten us close to Evita, in all her misery and all her splendor."

Excerpt from the Spanish summary of my novel

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Miss Moppet
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Location: North London
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Postby Miss Moppet » Wed July 21st, 2010, 6:58 pm

"Andromeda_Organa" wrote:I had a professor who told me that everything that ever happened is copyrighted, and that nothing, including myths and legends or history, is in the public domain and that if I ever mentioned or based anything that I wrote about on real events or legends, I could get sued and that I can't base my writing on anything, including my real life. Is this true?


No, it's rubbish. I hope the good professor has a deeper knowledge of his subject, whatever it is, than he does of copyright.

As for Juan Peron, you can't libel the dead, so if his relatives don't like your portrayal, I think they'll have to lump it. But by all means take advice from someone versed in South American copyright and entertainment law for your own peace of mind if it's causing you concern. If you have an Argentinian agent or publisher they should know who to ask. Publishers usually vet books for libel if there's any chance of it - they don't want to get sued any more than authors do.


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