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Literary Ownership

EndarkenedRationalist
Posts: 14,201
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7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?
Sapphique
Posts: 4,110
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7/14/2015 8:31:46 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

Interesting question--I haven't thought about that before. I think that while the characters still exist only in the author's mind, then obviously they belong fully to the author. But once they're written into books and people read them, well...they pass through the pages into the reader's imagination, and I think that in a way gives readers a claim on the characters. So yeah, both. The author still has the final say since he/she is the original creator. I don't know much about the Atticus Finch controversy, but if he's portrayed in a way that destroys readers' conception of him in their minds, they'll be angry--perhaps rightfully so. I know I'd be pissed if a character I liked suddenly became totally different in the next book.
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Blade-of-Truth
Posts: 5,020
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7/15/2015 2:13:52 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

I think the characters *should* belong to the author. I mean, they are their creation. In nearly every other industry the creator has the rights as long as they patent it. Perhaps that's the issue - can we patent characters? Idk. Personally though, I'd be offended if I saw one of my characters used by another without my permission.
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1harderthanyouthink
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7/15/2015 4:48:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
When it comes to actual books, the author owns everything. They can't just do what a reader would "want" to happen.

That said, I don't get why people are so pissed off. Atticus Finch was based on, for the most part, on Lee's father - who was a segregationist when the book was written. Besides, this view of him is extremely believable given the time period, and it's not like any heroes are without sin.
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UtherPenguin
Posts: 3,679
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7/15/2015 4:54:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

I had no idea that Harper Lee was still alive
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EndarkenedRationalist
Posts: 14,201
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7/16/2015 3:55:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/15/2015 2:13:52 PM, Blade-of-Truth wrote:
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

I think the characters *should* belong to the author. I mean, they are their creation. In nearly every other industry the creator has the rights as long as they patent it. Perhaps that's the issue - can we patent characters? Idk. Personally though, I'd be offended if I saw one of my characters used by another without my permission.

I don't mean it in a sense of artistic license breaching. Like, if Harry Potter suddenly showed up in The Hunger Games. It's more of a mental construction. The readers create an image of the character, their own interpretation of what that character would or would not do, and thus disagree when/if the writer has the character do something they feel (s)he would never do.
EndarkenedRationalist
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7/16/2015 3:55:41 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/15/2015 4:54:24 PM, UtherPenguin wrote:
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

I had no idea that Harper Lee was still alive

The more you know.
Saint_of_Me
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7/16/2015 4:24:48 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

Rights to characters may exist under federal trademark law as well as under state laws dealing with unfair competition and passing off. The key to federal trademark protection is that marks are protectable only to the extent that they are used to identify the source of certain products and/or services.

Thus it is not merely having a description or depiction of a character, whether in text or graphic format, that matters. Instead, trademark rights depend upon having a character that is used in relationship to specific goods and/or services and which character is then deemed to be a "source identifier." The latter term means that the character is considered in the minds of the public as identifying a particular source of the goods and/or services.

Before such rights of trademark in characters can be found to exist, the law requires that the character must have developed what the law refers to as a "secondary meaning."

This refers to the legal doctrine that when a consumer sees the particular character, it associates it with a particular source. Of course the best example would be Mickey Mouse. Everyone on the planet knows that that character stems from a particular source"Disney. To the same extent would be Bugs Bunny, the source being Warner Bros.

........... This secondary meaning then allows the consumer to know that when he or she sees or relates to that character, that the particular source is behind it, either directly or through some quality-controlled licensing arrangement.
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bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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7/17/2015 3:04:07 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/14/2015 5:41:31 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
While I was reading about the recent Harper Lee controversy centering around the portrayal of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman, I came across an interesting question which I wanted to share with the users of DDO.

Do literary characters belong to the author? The reader? Both? Neither?

As an author myself, I find this question especially intriguing. I would have assumed most people would say that the author owns the character, but that viewpoint was in the minority in the discussions I saw. What do you all think?

They "belong" to the author, until the copyright lapses and they "belong" to the people at large.

That said, it's like with property rights generally. just because you own it doesn't mean that what you're doing isn't a jerk move. Look at George Lucas. No one would argue he didn't have the right to burn his originals of the original trilogy in favor of the utter garbage he turned Star Wars into, but in terms of the 456 changes and the (shudder) "prequels" of 123, but he's still a jerk for doing it and, at least in theory, never allowing those who liked the originals before he ruined them to get ahold of them (I'm sure Disney will release them at some point, thankfully, though they'll also ensure that the copyright lasts as long as possible and argue for infinite exemptions which is its own bag o' problems).

To quote Chris Rock: You can do it, that don't mean it's to be done.
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