Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quacks in the Woodwork

Ok, let's get this straight - ideas can not be copyrighted. Got that? CAN NOT BE COPYRIGHTED. If they could, we'd have a very scant reading selection. Not to mention movie and music selection. But they can't. So don't try to sue a bestselling author because you claim he or she plagiarized your work because there's a similar scene in there which only makes you look like a massive tool. Got it?

Because the tool boxes suing JK Rowling obviously don't (here and here). The estate of Adrian Jacobs is suing JK Rowling for plagiarism and claiming that she stole the notion of wizards riding on trains from this man's book that was published ten years prior to Sorcerer's Stone coming out, among other things. You see the ridiculousness of this? It's wasted effort. They really need to stop trying.

My book I'm editing now has a castle that can be moved in it. I thought it was such an original idea! Yay me! Until one of my betas asked me if I got the inspiration from Howl's Moving Castle. I went huh? and then proceeded to Google. Dammit! Granted the premise and everything about the moving castle itself is entirely different, the concept is still there. I'd never heard of Howl's before that. Doesn't make it a plagiarism case. It can't be if I was completely unaware of something similar until months after I'd written the first draft of my own work. But even should my book get published, there's still no harm. Because the idea for a moving castle can't be copyrighted.

Just like the idea for a 19th century Gossip Girl can't be copyrighted or a boy wizard can't be copyrighted or dragon-slaying can't be copyrighted. There's a reason why we tend to see similar books on the shelves, like all of the academy books (with or without fangs). Because the idea doesn't belong to one individual, just the execution does.

It takes a lot of effort to get the lawyers together to take on an author like JK Rowling, not to mention a huge sack of balls. Not because she'll go batshitty on you but because you really have to have a big head to think that she copied off of your work. Really big head.

To be fair, I said the same thing about Rowling when the issue with the HP Lexicon came about. One of her defenses was that the idea for an HP encyclopedia was her idea first. Push all of the copyright infringement issues that the Lexicon had off to the side, that statement is irrelevant. Who had the idea first doesn't matter. Why? "Because you can't copyright ideas." Very good! It's all about winning the race, not what you did to get to the end. So if that alone was her stance, she would have been screwed. Thankfully she's actually the copyright holder of all things HP so she had a pretty comfy pillow to fall back on there.

If you're going to go after any author, let alone one as huge as Rowling, for plagiarism, for the love of god be sure you can substantiate your claim so you don't look like an ass. Jealousy is not a good motivator, even if her idea did better than yours. Publishing has a lot to do with timing and luck and not everyone can win that game. If you can't substantiate your claim, just take the hit and write another book. Maybe you'll get lucky next time.


Anonymous said...

There's a couple of other reasons that Adrian Jacobs' estate case is ridiculous also. One, he died after the books came out and never once tried to sue himself. Two, his book was vanity-published, so the likelihood of *anybody* reading it, let alone Rowling, is miniscule.

The large piece of 'evidence' in the case is that Jacobs once queried Christopher Little, who later became Rowling's agent. I wonder how many manuscripts Little turns down every year? Judging from the excerpts that are available from Jacobs' work, and extrapolating that a query letter might contain similar language and grammar, it's unlikely Little ever actually read any of that manuscript.

But perhaps they have other compelling evidence to bring to court. I guess we shall see.

Anonymous said...

typo! -- first sentence 'that' should be 'why.' :D

Taste Life Twice said...

I don't mean to be rude, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think cannot is one word.

Anonymous said...

Rowling is very attached to Harry. I mean she wrote herself out of poverty and into mega millions with those books. Doubt she would let anything slide.

Barbara said...

Well LJ Smith sued the people that did the British series Hex. Okay there was a character named Cassie who was a witch but I certainly don't remember a lesbian ghost so I guess I'll have to read that again. But I guess when you write something you get pretty attached to it so you don't want someone else invading your territory so to speak.

Stormy said...

Wizards?! On trains? It's more likely than you think.

Seriously...other than a vain attempt for publicity to get a few more copies of this book sold, what exactly was their game here? If it was a genuine plagirism case (as they are presenting it), shouldn't they really consider the possibility that the "evil towering evil that is JK" would just *crush* them?

And for the love of god, trains, especially big, old, steam-trains are inherently magical. I mean, you say magic + train to me, and my brain immediately jumps to Narnia.

Just wizards on trains. Sheesh. That isn't something that you could copyright.

Maybe...if they were both wizards whose trains were magitek laboratories where they were building a magic-nuke in order to kill the big bad, there would be a case, but as a mode of transportation, even magic transportation, I can only assume they were drunk when they lodged this case.

robin_titan said...

Wow, absolutely ridiculous.

What?! You hadn't hear of Howl's Moving Castle?! Gasp! You should read it it's very awesome :) Slow at times but overall a great read also about inner beauty. The movie adaptation is friggin' amazing and you should def. watch it :D

Anonymous said...

But I bet you he heard of Babba Jaga's Hut!

Donna said...

I totally understand the whole writers getting attached to their work but they should also keep their heads about them in situations like this. Going in they should understand that ideas have a tendency of getting recycled and plagiarism required actual proof to be proven.

Taste, either or are acceptable. Cannot is more of a phonetic spelling adopted directly from speech. Can not means the same thing but when speaking, most people don't emphasize the can and not. But since it blends, if you want it emphasized, separating them drives the point home as the n's can't really be emphasized in cannot.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and for the record, the typo i was pointing out was in my comment, not your post :)

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