Beware of Derivative “Inspiration”

Authors often ask me about the legality of using other works as “inspiration” for creative works–not just “fanfic” but also works intended to stand alone. The short answer is that while the “building blocks of fiction”–macro-level concepts like “wizards” and “talking animals” can’t be copyrighted, an author’s interpretation of those concepts, and creative worlds an author builds, are subject to copyright. Using another author’s characters, worlds, or creative flourishes without permission is often copyright infringement (if done without permission and prior to expiration of the copyright term). Use of copyrightable portions of another author’s creative works–either by copying or by using them for “close

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