Coincidence

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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littlewhispers
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Coincidence

Post by littlewhispers » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:46 am

I've recently come across a book which has a similar idea to my own ideas for a graphic novel. I had no idea this book existed until recently and well after I had drawn up the idea. One of the characters in the book, shares a name with one of the characters from my own graphic novel idea, both are girls named Astrid. There is a similar concept where the book had a lack of adults, similar to my own, but in my idea, there are still adults in the world and the rest have been held captive by alien invaders along with children. My story is set on a fictional planet, an alien world with alien species, while this book series is set in a fictional town in america, and Ive been told both girls are diffrent in there roles, including appearence.There are diffrent physical appearences. Is this idea, as it stands, alright to use considering the similar names of the characters?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_%28novel_series%29

From what I understand anyway theres no copyright on things like names. I imagine this sorta thing must happen alot. And evenutally you'd run out of names, it'd be like trying to copyright words.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Fri May 01, 2015 8:53 am

Hi littlewhispers,
I think by now you will have formed an overview of the law. There are no hard rules you can follow which guarantee there won't be a claim against you. Each case would be decided on the facts in that case. Caselaw provides us some pointers but beyond that it may well depend on the skill of the claimant or defendant in how they put across their arguments.
But before anything gets as far as the court, much depends on the attitude, and indeed the knowledge, of the author of the original. If they are unaware of another work which has many similarities to their own, they can't be expected to take action, and even if they are aware, they may be relaxed, even flattered, that another author has appeared to use their work as inspiration. And even if they do care, will they wish to go to the expense of hiring a solicitor to fire off letters of complaint?
In the case you mention, since you say you only discovered the other story after you had written your own, this would be what is known as independent creation, and it would be for the other author to show that you infringed their work, beyond the level of reasonable coincidence. But as you say, common names alone would not be sufficient grounds for an allegation, unless either they were particularly unusual (Sherlock Holmes, or Zaphod Beeblebrox for instance) or you had used several names of the main characters of the other work (Harry, Hermione and Ron, say) which would stretch credulity if the explanation was supposed to be sheer coincidence.
And of course if you have not yet published your work when you become aware of the similiarity with another, published work, it is open to you to change the name of your character or plot detail in order to reduce the likelihood of any parallels between the two works.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

littlewhispers
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Post by littlewhispers » Fri May 01, 2015 6:14 pm

Gotta admit, this puts my mind at ease a bit. And makes alot of sense, espiecally in this day and age. With the internet, art communitys, facebook and self publishing, there must be hundreds of ideas out there with one similarity or another. And if one person can think of a certain idea, stands to reason anothe person in this big world could come up with one similair. Just becuase they came out with something first doesent mean I suppose yours should never see the light of day.

If I know Ive done nothing wrong I shouldent have to defend myself anyway. Like you said it'd be the other person having to prove whether thats true even if isent.

I guess art, writing, whatever creative, is a bit of a risk in itself.Even if youve done nothing wrong you can get any cazy claiming you stole summin from them even if you dident. Anyone can make a claim even if theres no substance to it. Gotta take the rough with the smooth I guess

In any case its impossible to come up with anythign 100 percet original. And in a way, thats a good thing. Some concepts and ideas remain beloved even today.

Thanks so much for all your help ^^ I feel a bit more confident now and hope I can move forward a bit.

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