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What if someone steals my stuff?

09 Mar

This is a really common question of new writers. They want feedback from other writers, but they are afraid some other writer will steal their idea.

The truth is there is a chance someone can take your idea, or use that name for their book, or have a similar protagonist. All of these can happen.
But it isn’t as important as some seem to think.

The truth is:

1. Someone already did it.
Think about the plot pieces that make up your story. Lost soul? Broken heart? Artifact? Magic stone?
Now think of all the movies, TV shows, music pieces, paintings, games, books, comics, and other media out there with the same theme, plot, story, or character type in it. A lot of them, right?

Very little comes out that is completely new and original. Many of the best movies are re-imaginings of past ideas, or franchises. Even “Avatar”, a block buster, was criticized for being a rip off of “Dances with Wolves”. “Titanic” drew from the sinking of a real ship, and the old “boy meets girl of a different class, can’t have girl cause someone else is in the way” story line. They just tweaked the stories, gave them beautiful backdrops, and let them go.

2. Writers already have their own ideas.
I have 7 novels, and 12 short stories planned for this year. That doesn’t include the others that are waiting for next year. I don’t need yet another idea to stack on top of all the others. And I bet most, if not all authors that bother with publishing, have a drawer full of ideas just like me. Why, then, do they need your idea?

3. Your stuff isn’t worth stealing… yet.
Okay, there is a chance that your prose are amazing, awesome, inspiring, and will bring readers to tears, encouraging them to shoot you to the top of the charts. But more then likely you need to hone your craft. Find all the glitches. Clean up the prose, spelling and grammar. And then, MAYBE, after all of that is done, then you might be ready for the big time.

If you are one of those rare people who have uber-amazing stories that are worth stealing, then why aren’t you publishing right now?

Lets be honest. It takes time to learn to write well, and not only technically speaking, but also to write stories worth reading. Worth stealing? That is a whole new level of greatness.

4. Art is Stealing
Romeo and Juliet has been remade, rewritten, and re-conceptualized, so many hundreds of times that each of us knows the story without ever actually reading the original work. Most of the adaptations don’t even bother to say “this is a rip off of Romeo and Juliet” anymore. We just know.

Why is this a good thing? Because it means you can do the same thing. Remake red riding hood, or some Greek myths. Re-imagine Aesop’s fables, or a 100 year old opera. Go to museums and make up stories to go with pictures you see. Write to music, art, etc. Etc.

For more on this go read Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

5. Ideas are a dime a dozen.
Here, have some:

  • Girl goes to mars and finds life that tries to eat her.
  • Guy meets girl, pisses her off, and has to win her back.
  • Group of friends are going off to college and make a last ditch effort to have the best summer ever.
  • Ancient god from Norse myth turns out to be an alien, and he’s back.
  • We are actually in a communal dream.
  • Kid finds out his parents are really wizards/aliens/superheros/etc and so is he.
  • Artist makes a beautiful piece of art and falls in love with it.

Seven ideas. All of which have been featured in several movies/books/poems/songs/etc.
Ideas are a dime a dozen, and you can’t copyright ideas. In fact you can go watch a movie, write down the key points, and create your own story out of it.

Basic story: Guy finds out he’s actually meant to save the world. Doesn’t believe it, but when he finally does amazing/horrible things start happening. This is the plot to “The Matrix”, “LOTR”, and “WoT” books, as well as several other franchises.
Now redefine a few things. Who is “the guy”? How will he save, or destroy the world? Why doesn’t he believe? What makes him believe? What can he do once he believes? Now you have a story all your own.

What does this all mean?
Stop worrying about your stuff getting stolen and go on with your life. Get on with making art.

Here is a real world example. Fashion designers can not copyright their designs because clothing is a utilitarian item. Here is a great article on how lack of copyright has actually made fashion design better.

And here is EASimCity, a great game. Suffering under 2800 one star reviews because they are so paranoid about copyright that they are killing their own game.

Here is what matters:
Make good art.
Make a lot of it.
Make it available.
Give it a fair priced.
Engage your readers.

If they like you, and your writing, then they will want to give you money so that you will keep making more stuff.

If you are so afraid someone will steal your stuff, then you’re not going to meet the fans who will love your work, either.

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Copyright, On Writing

 

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