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 Embellishments and other little pieces

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malpanda



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PostSubject: Embellishments and other little pieces   Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:47 pm

What I’ve been wondering is, what is the minimum effective level of public exposure necessary to secure copyright or its opposite, open-source? I ask because what I would like to do is add embellishments to existing PD/OS characters (alternate versions, alternate non-trademarked names, optional details, and intuitive tweaks) to “buy space for the public domain” as Argosail puts it. If doing that is as simple as putting it up on this forum, (he says, after taking months to gather the energy and time to post this) then I can post it in small, more frequent pieces as things occur to me. If, on the other hand, things like books (in my case, self-published or print-on-demand), youtube videos, and webcomics are more substantive and more protected by intellectual property laws, then I should be saving up the various tweaks and pastiches and combining as many of them as possible into larger works of some kind, that can then announce in one place my intention for the contents to be open source.


Looking at the issue from another angle, I once had a conversation with someone who, as an example for how certain game rules worked, stipulated an armored villain called the Ventilator (no other details except he had a brother who was helping him rob a bank). I was inspired by this to create an armored villain called the Ventilator for a story I was writing, ignoring the bit about the brother but adding specific powers (based on refrigeration/air conditioning), an alter-ego, a Robin Hood-esque motivation (the airing of grievances), a more specific appearance, actions, and dialogue. Does the person who made that offhand example technically have a claim upon that character?


Also, this is more of an etiquette question, really, but is there a concise and tactful way to ask people here (and on the facebook group) “So, this really cool thing you made and are showing us, is the concept therein meant to be open source so other people can use and build upon it, or is it something you’re retaining ownership of, but you’re showing us because it’s based on public domain works?”  I’ve wanted to ask that question a half dozen times already, but I didn’t want people to think I was pressuring them to sign away their creations to the cause.
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captainwhizz

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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:47 am

As a rule of thumb, anything substantial and original someone adds to a PD character could, potentially, become their intellectual property. Off the top of my head, if I made a version of Robin Hood who lived in a sci-fi setting (basically making it like Firefly), all the changes from the original might be protected by copyright law. But then, why am I calling the character Robin Hood in the first place? Why not call him Mal Reynolds (pretending for a moment Firefly didn't already exist)? If you make enough changes to a character, why are you saying it's the same character? Would I be calling my character Robin Hood just to get a bit of attention due to the famous name?

Using Black Terror, if I take him, make him a black character, set him in modern times, give him different powers, a new name, a new day job, a new background, a different personality, and a bunch of advrntures, then my version is probably going to be protected. But then why not go the whole hog and just give him a different name?

To get back on track, intellectual property law is not very often simple, black and white decisions. Even if a writer thinks they have made enough changes to make their version of a PD character protected, a court could decide otherwise. So the best way is to just state what you are releasing into the public domain, and always ensure that you check with someone before you use their work.
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malpanda



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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:59 pm

Thanks, Cap. I appreciate the answer. In hindsight, I don’t think I was clear enough about the intent of my plans, but it’s probably better to just post what material I’ve got, in the proper categories, and see how it goes, rather than try to summarize it in this thread.
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GoldenBard

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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Fri Sep 25, 2015 7:33 am

Hey, Mal. Most of the folks on this board are pretty cool, and I doubt anyone would steal your stuff. Having said that, I would only post the stuff that you feel comfortable posting. I post plenty of stuff, but there are a few things that I've been saving to use myself.
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captainwhizz

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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:53 pm

I have some original ideas myself, and where I've mentioned them I think I've flagged them as original work. There are some things that I wouldn't necessarily want to give up control of, but at the same time I'd be happy for people on the forum to use in their works, because firstly I'd like be flattered that people liked an idea I had enough to use it, and secondly it makes it seem like their stuff is a parallel universe to my stuff (or even the same).
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SuperHeroFan



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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Wed Sep 30, 2015 3:36 pm

"...There are some things that I wouldn't necessarily want to give up control of, but at the same time I'd be happy for people on the forum to use in their works, because firstly I'd like be flattered that people liked an idea I had enough to use it, and secondly it makes it seem like their stuff is a parallel universe to my stuff (or even the same)."

@CptWhizz,

That would IMHO be cool to read, different creators taking on a character, seeing how the character changes. If I ever get myself properly organized, I think I'd like to do that w/ a character, let it go, see what happens - like w/ Jenny Everywhere.
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captainwhizz

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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Thu Oct 01, 2015 3:45 am

There's an author called Kim Newman (who also writes as Jack Yeovil) who has used PD characters and historical figures to write at least two universes which are either parallel to each other, or referenced by each other. He has a book series called Anno Dracula, where Dracula married Queen Victoria and ruled the British Empire, that has a lot of characters from other people's works in, and then he made the Diogenes Club series, which I think is a different continuity but features alternate versions of some characters/ events. I know that he created a vampire character called Geneviève Dieudonné who featured in 4 books for Games Workshop in the Warhammer universe, but has alternate versions in his Anno Dracula and Diogenes Club series.


I think that, if you look at how many Marvel and DC continuities there are, with their multiverses, What If? stories, Elseworlds, etc, it would be pretty cool to have a Free Universe equivalent, see different people's takes on different characters, maybe even have cross-overs, like two different versions of the Black Terror meet up or something.
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SuperHeroFan



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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Sun Oct 04, 2015 4:40 am

"I think that, if you look at how many Marvel and DC continuities there are, with their multiverses, What If? stories, Elseworlds, etc, it would be pretty cool to have a Free Universe equivalent, see different people's takes on different characters, maybe even have cross-overs, like two different versions of the Black Terror meet up or something."

YES! lol
I would read that! Speaking of the 'Big 2', I am getting tired of their different 'events' they use to get readers into a series, esp. with the 'new' Secret Wars event (yawn) Convergence (YAWN) Why is there an 'event' almost every year? Can't people write stories that take place within the main title anymore without branching into books with a page or so with a so-called tie in?

Back on topic - a PD/Open Source multiverse book could be fun, esp. using the original heroes, and people would see that companies would slap powers on anyone, or add a jetpack, even use the title 'Captain' so and so, and give them some link to patriotism, sometimes in the strangest way, and a comic book would be published. The comparisons would be fun to read, even more the different creators' vision on the character themselves.
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captainwhizz

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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Wed Oct 07, 2015 8:57 pm

To be honest, if you pick up comics about the same character by different writers, they can seem almost like different people. Although, in a lot of cases, they are, especially with DC, but look at Magneto or someone. It would be cool to have a bunch of people write short stories about Daredevil, or the Black Terror, or the Shield, and compare them.
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PostSubject: Re: Embellishments and other little pieces   Sat Nov 14, 2015 4:05 pm

I was thinking about this again last night. In my universe, most of the characters in it are intended to be pretty close to their original versions, at least close enough that the original stories of Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, etc, should fit into my universe without much alteration.

However, I knew that I wanted to take John Carter and Gullivar Jones and play about with them a bit. I wanted a Confederate officer and a (black) Union soldier to travel to Barsoom together as an "odd couple", and so this would mean large changes to the original stories. Ultimately, I decided to make them different characters, with different names that still made it obvious who they were inspired by- John Gullivar and Carter Jones. So I see that as a good way to give love to PD characters, while at the same time not stretching them too far beyond the original portrayals.
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