Copyrighting an Idea
Nov22

Copyrighting an Idea

  While surfing around on the net recently, I noticed a spate of articles dealing with plagiarism. Most of these articles focused on the various copyright issues of writers whose works have been reproduced verbatim without the author’s prior consent. So I’m not going to do yet another article on that topic.   Other sites have featured FAQ pages, where a lot of writers have asked the question “What if someone steals my idea?”   Obtaining a copyright for an original piece of work is a relatively straight-forward procedure these days, so thoughts of a desperate hack plagiarizing your work shouldn’t be a problem.   But how do you copyright an IDEA ?   To put it simply – you can’t.   No matter what amazingly unique idea you might come up with for your new novel, chances are it’s already been used hundreds, possibly even thousands, of times before.   I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I’m going to give you – free of charge – an idea for your next novel. Are you ready for it??   Woman meets Man. Man is cold-hearted and aloof. Woman despises Man. Man eventually wins her over. They fall in love, despite their differences. They live happily ever after.   If it sounds awfully familiar, that’s because it is. It is a commonly recurring theme for most romantic fiction novels. The odd part here is that I don’t usually read romantic fiction. I ‘borrowed’ this idea from an Anne McCaffrey science fiction/fantasy novel to give to you.   Does this mean the idea was originally plagiarized from trusty old Mills and Boon? Absolutely not.   Using the example above, let’s look at three different writers from three completely different genres. We can see how they are able to ‘borrow’ an idea and turn it into an original work of fiction. Writer 1: Horror Writer   Woman meets Man. Man is cold-hearted and aloof because he is a vampire. Woman is disgusted by his nature and terrified of him. He proves himself to be an unwilling victim, not a cold-blooded killer and he wins her over. She is drawn to his mysterious nature and they fall in love anyway, in spite of their differences.   Writer 2: Fantasy Writer   Princess meets Man. Man is cold-hearted and aloof because he has elven blood in his veins and he knows he can never be accepted into the royal world of the Princess. Woman rides into the forest and is attacked by a hungry dragon. Half-elven man slays dragon, wins the Princess’ respect. They fall in love, in spite of their...

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