Flexible Survival and copyright

Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Feo Takahari » Wed Feb 18, 2015 12:46 am

TL;DR version: What would make a story an FS homage rather than FS infringement?

I find the idea of a viral transformation-based apocalypse much more interesting than the usual zombie apocalypse, and I would be interested in writing a story along those lines. Rather than FS fanfiction, I'd like to go in a more serious direction, with no sex and scarier monsters, to be submitted for publication as original fiction. The problem is that so many of my ideas come from FS that I'm having a hard time modifying it to avoid ripping FS off. So I'd like to ask you folks: what would constitute infringement or non-infringement on FS's copyright? How different do I have to make my story for it to simply reference and rebound off the original, rather than stealing from it?
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Samsquatch » Wed Feb 18, 2015 11:37 pm

The first thing to keep in mind is that, in a general sense, there is no such thing as an original story. Nearly any work of fiction can be described as a sort of Frankenstein's monster made from different parts of different stories. The author of the new work need not be aware of the other similar stories for the comparison to hold true. As a result, determining copyright infringement is based on a rather narrow set of factors to determine if there is Substantial Similarity.

I'm assuming that by publish you mean publish for profit, as I don't think anyone would care if you posted some fanfic - that sort of thing is almost always covered by fair use. As far as for profit work goes, the setting itself is not something that would be subject to copyright. You'd be more likely to run afoul of copyright with the owners of the Shadowrun setting than FS (very similar concept, though I have no information about the development process for FS and whether it draws any inspiration from Shadowrun). I would entirely avoid using any of the existing characters, stories or locations. There's no good reason to use any of those beyond the vaguest of similarities.

That said, my first thought on reading this is, did you take the 5 minutes to google for that before posting this? Personally, the first thing I would be doing if I wanted to create a derivative work would be to research the hell out of copyright law, because the project is going to explode on the launch pad otherwise. The second thing I would do is ask the content creators individually what their thoughts are on the matter (via PM or Email). Really, the post reads like, "I want to steal as much of this as I can without breaking the law" rather than, "I'm interested in using the setting in a general sense with my own characters and plot, what would be the best way to move forward from here?" Maybe that's not your intent, but you're speaking of being a writer; your intent should be obvious from your words.

This may seem harsh, but writing is serious business and I treat it as such. It's not the sort of thing that produces good results when entered into half-heartedly. Your post doesn't speak of putting in the thought or effort necessary for a successful project. I'm open to being proven wrong. If you put an appropriate amount of work into researching exactly what it is you're trying to do and still have questions, i'm happy to answer them.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Feo Takahari » Thu Feb 19, 2015 7:03 pm

Samsquatch wrote:That said, my first thought on reading this is, did you take the 5 minutes to google for that before posting this? Personally, the first thing I would be doing if I wanted to create a derivative work would be to research the hell out of copyright law, because the project is going to explode on the launch pad otherwise. The second thing I would do is ask the content creators individually what their thoughts are on the matter (via PM or Email). Really, the post reads like, "I want to steal as much of this as I can without breaking the law" rather than, "I'm interested in using the setting in a general sense with my own characters and plot, what would be the best way to move forward from here?" Maybe that's not your intent, but you're speaking of being a writer; your intent should be obvious from your words.

This may seem harsh, but writing is serious business and I treat it as such. It's not the sort of thing that produces good results when entered into half-heartedly. Your post doesn't speak of putting in the thought or effort necessary for a successful project. I'm open to being proven wrong. If you put an appropriate amount of work into researching exactly what it is you're trying to do and still have questions, i'm happy to answer them.


I'm not trying to approach this as a strictly legal matter--"if I got sued, I'd win" or something like that. I wouldn't want to get sued in the first place, and regardless of that, I wouldn't want to create bad blood with this community.

I'm not taking any characters or locations from FS. I'm just worried about what it all adds up to. For instance, "survivors gather at a single fortified location" isn't infringement on its own, and neither is "some of the monsters resemble harpies," but if too many things add up at once, I'm worried it could feel like a rip-off. At this point in time, the story is still too nebulous for me to determine how close it might skirt--it will probably wind up being very different. I just wanted to approach the matter cautiously since I feel like I owe a debt to this game and its creators for giving me the idea in the first place.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Samsquatch » Thu Feb 19, 2015 10:45 pm

If all you're borrowing is the idea of a post-apocalyptic situation with virus/nanobot created monsters/horrors rolling around and people bunkering up, you're in pretty safe territory. There's plenty of other stuff out there with relatively similar premises and I don't think anyone would have hard feelings about borrowing something as basic as the setting. The plot and the characters are really what differentiate stories and if you're not using those, there's no reason to worry. In any case, the difference between the story telling in a narrative and in a relatively free-form game like FS would be huge. With the relatively small amount of background and story for the enormous number of characters, the only way it would work as a book were if it were written in the style of World War Z.

From what you said initially, you're not planning on having the focus be about sex. With that in mind, I think any story you write will be different enough that no one will be upset about it so long as you're not writing using their characters.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby TigerStripes » Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:10 am

From the sounds of it, you need to stop for a bit and make an effort to make more original ideas. It's very flattering that we've been able to provide so much inspiration and ideas, but you want to be making your own creation. This will both be more satisfying creatively and make your end product less derivative. Given the wide scope of content we provide, it's understandable that there'll be some overlap, but you should do your best to move beyond that when possible. I say this to help improve your story and help your writing achieve its own true potential instead of letting it get locked too tightly into a framework of duplicated ideas.

If the monster population is entirely or even largely stuff from FS, then you're getting too caught up in using us as your sole inspiration. Look at some of the creatures/NPCs you want to use and ask yourself what you're taking from them and why you're picking them in the first place? Are they the same as the ones in FS? Are you the same or similar descriptions and characterization as ours or are they unique? Are you inspired by them as a creature or by some theme or idea they represent? If the former, then change their behaviour, motivations and the themes they explore. If the latter, than try to find another creature or means to explore that concept in a way unique to your own project. It's certainly understandable to see some common creature types among your monstrous population, such as wolves, big cats or mythological beasts (and we've certainly covered a lot of the basics), but there are ways this can still be mixed up to make it fresh. One way would be to have large feral felines instead of feral wolves, along with the different behaviours inherent to that. If they main character spots some anthro gryphons around, certainly don't make them blue (or even odd-coloured at all) and consider not making them herms as well. If the interact with them, try to make them different in other ways beyond just the appearance.

For example, let's look at those harpies you've mentioned. Ask yourself why you want the harpies? Do you just need a flying threat? Is it the mythological references? Is the avian/human combination unique to harpies the part that draws you to them? If you do specifically want harpies, then give them a different motivation/characteristic/behaviour beyond capturing mates/corrupting and explore the horror there. They can be looking to perform ritual sacrifice, enjoy dropping people from heights, eviscerating them or any other sort of thing that makes them more unique. If this is an ongoing transformation plague, where the survivors are still at risk of corruption, perhaps the harpies seek to only corrupt females into more of themselves and violently kill males. If not, maybe they capture male and immediately kill females (seeing them as would-be rivals). This could even result in momentary confusion when a captured prey is discovered to be a herm. Such a scene could be humorous, violent, tragic or any other number/combination of results.

If certain NPCs (or pets) are inspiring you, then make sure you're not performing cookie-cutter swaps. Changing their name and species does not make them a new character if the rest is the same. Again, I know we've got a wide variety of characters with their own personalities and themes. Just ask yourself, why do I like this guy/girl and why do I want them in my story? What's that compelling hook for you about them and explore that with a new character? What makes them a good fit for the story you're trying to tell? See what draws you to the material and focus on that and explore it from a fresh perspective with your own characters.

As another example, let's take Candy and say you wanted someone like him in your story. There's a lot of different aspects to the coonboi's character that might be what you want to explore? Is it the horny, flirty gay guy? Is it his crossdressing ways and/or girly appearance? Is it how he's a girly coon boi? Is it how he was just another roaming 'monster' on the brink of madness until the main character showed him kindness/mercy at a critical moment? How his past is now mostly lost to him, including even his own name, but his core personality might still be largely hole and intact? Changing his name and species/colouration will not provide something truly new. Instead find a part of him that works in your story and explore that. If you want to explore several aspects, then split them up into new characters or make the creative sacrifice and leave one out - explore that in a different story. If you've got other ideas/aspects from other NPCs you want as well, pairing desired aspects from two different ones and explore the new character they make together.

And with all that said, the most important point to stress is not to take descriptions, scenes and/or dialogue from the game and use it, even by tweaking or rewording/rewriting it. You're looking to make your own creation here, not to copycat material.

A final point to keep in mind is the fact that some of the NPCs/creatures and content in the game are based off of the characters of donators/writers. The more you adhere to the material in the game, the greater the odds you'll inadvertently copycat someone's fursona into your story and you don't want that.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Feo Takahari » Sat Feb 21, 2015 9:10 pm

TigerStripes wrote:For example, let's look at those harpies you've mentioned. Ask yourself why you want the harpies? Do you just need a flying threat? Is it the mythological references? Is the avian/human combination unique to harpies the part that draws you to them? If you do specifically want harpies, then give them a different motivation/characteristic/behaviour beyond capturing mates/corrupting and explore the horror there. They can be looking to perform ritual sacrifice, enjoy dropping people from heights, eviscerating them or any other sort of thing that makes them more unique. If this is an ongoing transformation plague, where the survivors are still at risk of corruption, perhaps the harpies seek to only corrupt females into more of themselves and violently kill males. If not, maybe they capture male and immediately kill females (seeing them as would-be rivals). This could even result in momentary confusion when a captured prey is discovered to be a herm. Such a scene could be humorous, violent, tragic or any other number/combination of results.


This makes me feel ten times better, since my magpie-inspired harpies are completely different from anything you mentioned. I guess even the same basic ideas can go in radically different directions. I apologize for wasting everyone's time.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby TigerStripes » Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:08 am

I hope my advice turns out to be helpful to you. Just keep it all in mind whenever you feel something's overlapping with FS. Also, if too many of your creatures/monsters seem like they're from FS, keep in mind that a lot of them are probably background scenery in your story and could easily be replaced with new ideas. For those that are interacted with more directly, try to make them more unique through concrete changes, both physically and behaviorally. The same applies to survivors as well.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Shoggoth on the Roof » Fri Feb 27, 2015 5:30 pm

Samsquatch wrote:I'm assuming that by publish you mean publish for profit, as I don't think anyone would care if you posted some fanfic - that sort of thing is almost always covered by fair use. As far as for profit work goes, the setting itself is not something that would be subject to copyright. You'd be more likely to run afoul of copyright with the owners of the Shadowrun setting than FS (very similar concept, though I have no information about the development process for FS and whether it draws any inspiration from Shadowrun). I would entirely avoid using any of the existing characters, stories or locations. There's no good reason to use any of those beyond the vaguest of similarities.


Man, you've been playing in some really weird Shadowrun games if you think that there's anything but the vaguest similarities between it and FS.
A big monster like that on such a pointed roof... You may ask 'how does it stay up there, if it's so difficult?'

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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Samsquatch » Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:11 am

Shoggoth on the Roof wrote:
Samsquatch wrote:I'm assuming that by publish you mean publish for profit, as I don't think anyone would care if you posted some fanfic - that sort of thing is almost always covered by fair use. As far as for profit work goes, the setting itself is not something that would be subject to copyright. You'd be more likely to run afoul of copyright with the owners of the Shadowrun setting than FS (very similar concept, though I have no information about the development process for FS and whether it draws any inspiration from Shadowrun). I would entirely avoid using any of the existing characters, stories or locations. There's no good reason to use any of those beyond the vaguest of similarities.


Man, you've been playing in some really weird Shadowrun games if you think that there's anything but the vaguest similarities between it and FS.


Not really? I think there's an awful lot of similarity in a general sense. In both settings, there is some sort of "event" which results in the creation of a number of non-human sentients. In shadowrun, this means elves, dragons, trolls, dwarves and the like. in FS, this there are quite a few more sentient races. In both settings, the government "collapses" and corporations take over. This is why in shadowrun, you have things like medwagons and why in FS, Zephyr seems to be running things (with free cred and whatnot). Things in the shadowrun universe are wacky to the point where magic is a thing (a thing that defies logic and technology). Magic exists in FS in much the same way. There's few to no mechanics for the player to take advantage of in FS, but any of the player's interactions with Nermine lead one to believe that, one way or another, something similar to magic exists in the FS universe.

I mean, the biggest difference between FS and shadowrun that I see is how "ruined" the world is and the level of sexual content. If you discount the sexual content (because really, you can have a sex romp with any game system if you really want to), the similarities aren't hard to notice.

The sexual content is definitely FS's defining feature by a wide margin, but whether FS was inspired by shadowrun in any fashion or not, there are more than passing similarities. I'm more than willing to explore this subject in greater depth if you disagree.
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Re: Flexible Survival and copyright

Postby Shoggoth on the Roof » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:07 am

That's really similar only in the broadest sense, though. FS really has more similarities with Fallout than Shadowrun: it's not cyberpunk and it is post-apocalyptic survival.

Also, Zephyr is "running" things in this city, but the end game makes it clear that there is, in fact, a functional government that arrives in the end to restore order.
A big monster like that on such a pointed roof... You may ask 'how does it stay up there, if it's so difficult?'

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