5E Product Walkthrough Playlist
  1. #1

    Any copyright issues with using books as inspiration for modules?

    Hi all,

    I do apologise if this has been covered elsewhere or if this is the wrong section in which to ask. I have searched fruitlessly here and on Google but haven't found the exact scenario I want to ask about. I did however get distracted by several other interesting discussions and articles...

    Does anyone know if there are any copyright issues with using a book as an inspiration for an adventure module? Would it depend on the amount of 'inspiration'?

    For instance, I was working on a pen and paper version of a Doc Savage novel, The Thousand Headed Man by Kenneth Robeson for Pulp Cthulhu. Now that I have Fantasy Grounds I'd like to complete the module on FG.

    Obviously it doesn't really matter if I am the only one to view the content, but do I infringe copyright if I then run the game for my friends?

    Or, as I'd like to do, share here so that other, more experienced peeps can offer advice and criticism?

    It's obviously not going to be a direct copy as you have to find a way to make the book work as a module. At the very least the investigators will not have the preternatural abilities of Doc Savage and his crew.

    But I would like to keep many of the ideas in the book. The Black Keys and the discovery of how blocks of black resin can be a key. Sen Gat and his abilities, what the Thousand headed man actually is, the cobras in baskets etc.

    For instance, in the book it all starts with Doc Savage and his crew landing at Croydon Airfield and Maples (a good guy) just happening to be there trying to avoid Indigo (Sen Gat's evil henchman)
    In my module Maples knows the reputation of the investigators and sends them a message to meet him at the airfield at the exact time he knows that Holly Golightly, the latest Hollywood starlet is arriving, to form a diversion.

    So basically I'm using some of the ideas in the book, adding some of my own to make things work and changing things around for continuity.

  2. #2
    LordEntrails's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    -7 UTC
    Posts
    11,535
    Blog Entries
    9
    First, IANAL and this is not legal advice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Oladahn View Post
    Does anyone know if there are any copyright issues with using a book as an inspiration for an adventure module? Would it depend on the amount of 'inspiration'?
    Yes.
    Obviously it doesn't really matter if I am the only one to view the content, but do I infringe copyright if I then run the game for my friends?
    Probably not, or at least not in a way that even an IP holder would care enough about to pursue (if they even knew you had).

    Or, as I'd like to do, share here so that other, more experienced peeps can offer advice and criticism?
    That depends on how much you re-use.

    It's obviously not going to be a direct copy as you have to find a way to make the book work as a module. At the very least the investigators will not have the preternatural abilities of Doc Savage and his crew.

    But I would like to keep many of the ideas in the book. The Black Keys and the discovery of how blocks of black resin can be a key. Sen Gat and his abilities, what the Thousand headed man actually is, the cobras in baskets etc.

    For instance, in the book it all starts with Doc Savage and his crew landing at Croydon Airfield and Maples (a good guy) just happening to be there trying to avoid Indigo (Sen Gat's evil henchman)
    In my module Maples knows the reputation of the investigators and sends them a message to meet him at the airfield at the exact time he knows that Holly Golightly, the latest Hollywood starlet is arriving, to form a diversion.

    So basically I'm using some of the ideas in the book, adding some of my own to make things work and changing things around for continuity.
    Inspiration is different than using someone else's characters and settings. In general, no literary product produced today does not have various sources of inspiration from other literary works. One can not (practically or legally) prevent someone from drawing inspiration from what you publish. But, what one can not do is use the characters and settings of someone else's work in your own work without permission.

    So, don't use the same character names, personalities. Don't use the same place names, settings and plots.

    Draw inspiration, don't just take someone else's literary work and continue it in another direction.

  3. #3
    damned's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    22,022
    Blog Entries
    1
    If you own the original book you may format shift that book fr your own personal use.
    There is no copyright infringement with doing that for your own game.
    Past that - and you need a lawyer to advise you.

    MoreCore - Generic Ruleset
    --- Projects ---
    Extensions | Tutorials | MoreCore | MoreCore Themes | Call of Cthulhu | Maelstrom | FG Con

  4. #4
    Thanks. More or less what I thought.

    I suppose the easy answer is just to produce your own material which I'm more than happy to do. But I read a book and think, "what a great adventure module that would make." I think the Doc Savage series are absolutely spot on for Pulp Cthulhu.

    I think it's also worth noting that Copyright is time limited.

    So the other book I'm adapting, 'An Account of Some Disturbances in Aungier Street' by Sheridan le Fanu which was published in February 1853 is, if I'm understanding things correctly, not copyrighted any more.

    Whereas the other book I've mentioned, The Thousand Headed Man by Kenneth Robeson aka Lester Dent was published in 1934 and the author died in 1959 so is still covered by a few years of copyright.


    Many thank for the advice, much appreciated, if I do enter an adaptation for critique I'll be sure to ask advice first.

  5. #5
    Creating a module from any source for personal use with friends is perfectly legal, there is no way for anyone to say otherwise



    now if you plan to publish the work for use by other folks, such as posting it in these forums or on DMsguild this is where issues could arise

    now depending on how much you directly copy, how much you quote and how much you rewrite in your own words is where plagiarism claims could be placed.

    As this is taking an artistic medium and reworking it for a new platform, you should be able to produce it, as long as you are not selling it for any monetary gain and that you fully credit the source.

    This would be the equivalent of someone creating fan art or fan stories/alternate worlds

    most of these should be covered by the creative commons license if it has one.

    If in doubt write to the author and publisher for permission if you plan to publish it as a module for the benefit of others, where it might be a case that for publishing it you would need to provide them with some sort of percentage royalties. the author would likely be delighted at the thought of his material being able to reach a wider audience.



    I am not a lawyer, but this is my understanding of what can be done for working and building upon others work, and if it is for just your own personal use when playing with friends, or providing close friends with a copy this would still be considered a private interaction and not able to have any recourse against it as long as its not placed into the public domain

  6. #6
    damned's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    22,022
    Blog Entries
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by feelej25 View Post
    Creating a module from any source for personal use with friends is perfectly legal, there is no way for anyone to say otherwise

    now if you plan to publish the work for use by other folks, such as posting it in these forums or on DMsguild this is where issues could arise

    now depending on how much you directly copy, how much you quote and how much you rewrite in your own words is where plagiarism claims could be placed.

    As this is taking an artistic medium and reworking it for a new platform, you should be able to produce it, as long as you are not selling it for any monetary gain and that you fully credit the source.

    ...

    I am not a lawyer, but this is my understanding of what can be done for working and building upon others work, and if it is for just your own personal use when playing with friends, or providing close friends with a copy this would still be considered a private interaction and not able to have any recourse against it as long as its not placed into the public domain
    Copyright doesnt care whether there is money involved or not. You cannot distribute copies - even to friends - if there is copyright protected content.

    MoreCore - Generic Ruleset
    --- Projects ---
    Extensions | Tutorials | MoreCore | MoreCore Themes | Call of Cthulhu | Maelstrom | FG Con

  7. #7
    Well I'm going to play it careful, not least because I think it unfair to steal someone's intellectual property.

    I think I am correct that copyright lapses after a certain amount of time, so Le Fanu's 'An Account of a Disturbance in Aungier Street' published in 1853, the author dying in 1873, is no longer copyrightable.

    But the Thousand Headed Man published in 1934, author died 1959 is still probably copyrighted.

    It does seem from Wikipedia (that well known firm of ace lawyers) that providing your adaptation is sufficiently different from the original work and contains a substantial amount of your own input you can claim it to be derivative. The problem I can see with that is who decides whether your work is a separate, derivative work or is a copy?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deriva...pyright_apply?

    "a derivative work is an expressive creation that includes major copyrightable elements of an original, previously created first work (the underlying work). The derivative work becomes a second, separate work independent in form from the first. The transformation, modification or adaptation of the work must be substantial and bear its author's personality sufficiently to be original."

  8. #8
    LordEntrails's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    -7 UTC
    Posts
    11,535
    Blog Entries
    9
    Yes, defining what is 'derivative enough' is subjective, and it ends up being a judge or jury that gets to make the decision, and only after you have spent lots of money and time with lawyers :O

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
DMsGuild Classic

Log in

Log in