Inspiration vs Plagiarism Consolidated Discussion

A post was merged into an existing topic: Fan Games and Fanfiction

The point @Eiwynn brings up about waiting to draw inspiration until after you’ve finished reading is a huuuuge thing, so thank you for bringing that up! I found myself writing dialogue in my story to the same tune as The Witcher, since I had just finished an episode before writing. It can be extremely unintentional to sound exactly like what media you are receiving when writing, but it something to pay close attention to, even if it’s subconscious. This is a really good thread for authors, appreciate it being made!

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So I’ve been working on a superhero game for a couple months now and I have also taken a liking to checking out the other supehero CoGs and HGs. However, I am a bit worried that my story is beginning to look like a rip-off of other stories.

In my story, it details a world where a hierarchy of superhero powers is present, leading to those with mediocre and harmful power being discriminated against by those with more powerful abilities.

I am worried that this concept is ripping off Heroes Rise and The Hero Project.

My second worry deals with my characters. One of my characters has the ability to cast a force field, but it only covers their body whenever they hold their breathe, making them invulnerable. Another character has the ability to telekinetically control their hair, but it is limited by their actual hair length.

At first, I thought these were sound ideas since they changed the roles the powers used to serve. The force field character is now a lot more aggressive than most force field characters and the hair control character now uses their powers for hand-to-hand combat than it’s standard long-ranged melee attack role.

However, I feel as though these characters feel way too similar to Stoic and Tress from Community College Hero (not to mention the story concept’s emphasis on power levels similar to the ones found in CCH)

Have there every been similar situations between others like this? Was it okay? Should I rework certain aspects of my story?

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@MonkeyLottery – I believe if you read this thread, it will be a good start.

Once you do this, and if you still have concerns, perhaps the next step is to write a prototype of your story and then judge if it is inspiration or plagiarism.

If at that point you still have questions or concerns, I’d consider talking directly to some of the authors that write superhero stuff… @Eric_Moser, perhaps @adrao … Sergei, doesn’t communicate directly here but I believe he has both a Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The demo you write will be the true test; once you release that in the wild, here, listen to the feedback.

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I appreciate the response and I will read up on this thread. Thanks!

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There will always be people who will say you rip something or the other off.
The core thought should usually be not to have too many things in common with other games. Superpowers are superpowers, neither of the above writers invented them. But if you, for example, give the characters the same personality and backstories as in those other games, then it gets a bit yikes.

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@MonkeyLottery, I’d be happy to talk with you whenever!

Trust me, I know what it’s like to be nervous about appearing to be “too inspired” by certain properties.

I started writing CCH1 back in 2013, and I stayed as far from Heroes Rise as I could, but over the years I’ve gotten more “Have you watched My Hero Academia???” emails than I can count!!

I do think that when an author starts to wonder, “Am I too close to xyz?” that that might mean a bit more scrutiny is in order. I’ve always thought a good take is to combine features inspired from 2 or 3 different properties so that the end result is something fresher.

For example, for CCH, my original idea was to combine some of Kick Ass (the lame costumes and names, especially, plus the cussing) and some of the humor, camaraderie, and setting of the NBC show Community and yes a bit of Harry Potter in the most general “in a school, taking classes, leaning the ropes” sense. And STILL I’m told that 'My Hero Academia" is much like CCH, or perhaps CCH is much like it? (I’ve never watched it, and I still have no clue what it is other than an anime, which is not my thing).

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@MonkeyLottery Sorry for the super-late reply. Normally I try to reply to everything, but this somehow slipped!

But, I basically agree with @Eric_Moser. Note also that its almost impossible to come up with something nobody has thought of before. But, note also that you may think you are “too close to xyz” and somebody might say, “this story remind me so much of abc” (I’ve been really surprised by this).

I’d say, just go ahead with whatever you want to write, and draw inspiration from many places (As @Eric_Moser said). Its good to think about “am I too close to xyz?” as this will then force you to change the story and characters a bit more, driving the creative process (I’m often wandering around the streets thinking how to make my story differently, yesterday a friend told me I past by her without saying hi… I hadnt even noticed her!!)

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copied off episode interactive

Depends on what exactly is in your story is my guess. I can’t say for sure because you haven’t explained what your story is about.

Just remember that you can’t copyright ideas.

The trope of having a protagonist that’s the son of an evil deity (read: Satan) and decides to revolt against said parent is pretty common. An example - sort of - would be Netflix’s Lucifer. Or maybe Devil May Cry.

The trope of having a flaming sword or some sort of magical weapon that serves another purpose is also pretty universal. An example would be Bleach.

Having your story take place in an urban fantasy environment is again a universal trope to the point where there’s a genre category for it. Examples would be pretty much every vampire/werewolf novel in existence.

Having the Catholic Church (least I think it’s the Catholic denomination that’s featured in Blue Exorcist can’t remember) be demon hunters who wield guns and all manner of things is a common trope. An example would be the movie Priest.

If you’re protagonist had blue hair, blue eyes, and looked just like Rin from Blue Exorcist then you could run into a copyright issue since you’re stealing his image/likeness. If the events in your story mirror the anime or manga word to word or nearly word to word then you’d run into copyright troubles.

Having the idea of a half breed protagonist who sides with humanity against evil deity parent with their magical sword and is also in high school is an idea and you can’t copyright ideas.

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This isn’t about taking inspiration from plots of other works, but I’m interested in trying to get mine and @generalsquishy’s first game Baguette Quest hosted and I’m wondering if I need to change a couple of things due to copyright rules that I’m ignorant about.

In our game there’s a very minor character named Smeegle who is a strange doppelganger of one of the kings in the story, behaves somewhat like Smeagol from LOTR and at one point says “stupid hobbitses”, though that’s really the extent of the similarities. Also, the castle of that king is basically IKEA but repurposed as a castle, blue building with a giant yellow IKEA sign and all, full of Swedish furniture and with a layout based on the general IKEA layout. It’s a pretty lighthearted game, if you can’t tell already :sweat_smile:.

I’m wondering if either of these would pose an issue with trying to get the game hosted? I really don’t know anything about this sort of thing and don’t want to run into any issues.

@AngelNerd I can’t speak to how it will affect your game being published by Hosted Games—an email to the staff would be the only answer there—but I do want to let you know that parody is protected under copyright law in the US. :slight_smile: So if your character is named Smeegle to lampshade the “real” Sméagol (which the stupid hobbitses comment supports) I think you are good!

Also, are you using the name “IKEA” in your game? If not, I think you’re okay on that front as well!

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There’s a Veggie Tales parody of LTOR, so I’m pretty sure that one character making references is fine.

I’m not a lawyer tho, please don’t take my word as fact and then get sued

We actually do refer to the castle as the “IKEA castle” several times in the game, so I’m thinking we might need to rename it to something similar, like in the Smeegle example. I’m also from Canada, if that makes any difference. I might email the staff just to be sure. If we have to change the name then it wouldn’t make a big difference on the game anyway. Thanks for your reply!

I personally never name real-life entities in my works if I can help it, just because I find the potential legal complications of dealing with them to be too much of a headache to be worth it. I think changing it slightly would be your best bet: there’s a horror book that’s set in an IKEA and told in the form of an IKEA catalog, but it uses “ORSK” instead of IKEA, even though the branding and similarities are extremely obvious! I’d recommend doing something similar, but of course, it’s up to you!

It does make a bit of a difference, as in Canada, there are several provisions to whether parody is classified as “fair use”: the parody must not have the intent to punish, defame, or criticize, and must be distinct enough from the original thing that no one could confuse the parody for a depiction of the real-life thing, etc. etc. (For example, a cartoonist who used UNTIE(.)COM to parody the United(.)com airlines, and with a similar font and logo to United, lost a lawsuit because his spoof was considered too confusing/similar to the original, even though it was intended to be parody.)

But I don’t know how Canadian copyright law would also interact with COG/HG publishing, as it’s a US-based company. So, uh, anyway, copyright stuff is tricky, and I tend not to mess around with it if at all possible! Hope that helps!

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Rinari is spot on … whenever any issue occurs in your writing that touches a business, it is always a good idea to change things up slightly.

Not only are there copyright considerations, there are trademarks and even state and province legalities that dictate the businesses in question aggressively pursue any infringement or possible infringement. That is why you often see crazy law suits filed against games.

A recent example: Monster Energy Drinks sued a game producer for using “Monster” in their game’s title… while this most likely will not happen, it is best to be as proactive in your writing as you can be.

CoG is based in California, so the laws that would apply are US federal law and California state law… but it is best to confirm with the CoG staff, for the nitty-gritty details. Especially since I, too, am not a lawyer :wink:

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Thank you and @rinari for the info! We originally wrote our game just for ourselves and our friends so we didn’t think about copyrights and trademarks at all, but now that there’s an opportunity for us to try to get it hosted we of course want to avoid anything that could come back to bite us.

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Hmmm does anyone have any advice on how to search/find out if your premise or world building is too reminiscent of another already copyrighted work? I’m currently working on what I perceive to be an original setting/premise, solely since I haven’t come across it anywhere else(but in my mind it seems feasible that someone else may have come up with a very similar idea). This leads me to worry that some people will view my work as having drawn inspiration from a source i’ve never interacted with(I guess kind of mimicking what @Eric_Moser brought up earlier with how they’ve never seen My Hero Academia & people emailing them about it?).

But yeah if anyone has any advice or helpful resources for comparing my world building/premise against it would be heavily appreciated :blush:

I don’t think there’s anything around like that. Ideas have been used and reused for inspiration so many times that it’s hard not to run into at least some similarities in concepts. I wrote something once for a comp where I had multiple people commenting that I must have been heavily inspired by movies and shows I’d never watched and in some cases never even heard of! No one suggested I’d copied anyone, but it shows how some ideas can pop up in multiple storylines independently.

I guess the best advice you can have is try very hard NOT to deliberately copy anything too closely. If someone says your work seems the same as something else you have seen/read before, take another look at it and see if you’ve accidentally incorporated stuff or if it’s just an incidental resemblance. If you are inspired by something existing, try to take inspiration from a lot of different sources, not just one and make sure to use it as inspiration only to make an original story, rather than as a template.

Accidental incidents of near plagerism/heavy inspiration have been known to occur. Sometimes it’s someone’s seen/read something a long time ago, and forgotten mostly about it, but it ends up creating inspiration that can be a bit to close many years down the track. If it’s genuinely accidental like you’re describing, there’s not much you can do to outright prevent it except be mindful and check on any concerns from others as above.

If you’re concerned about having lifted outright passages of text, there are programs for that, but you’re not going to accidentally do that. It’s more useful for things like literature reviews where you need to consolidate and evaluate information resources without cutting and pasting text, than in the case creative stories.

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