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BizIPEsq.
BizIPEsq., Attorney
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 996
Experience:  I am a tech attorney and I represent clients with technology, internet and intellectual property matters
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Im a filmmaker and I was talking to the owner of a very popular

Customer Question

I'm a filmmaker and I was talking to the owner of a very popular blog where people submit their personal stories to her and she posts them. I want to take some of the top rated stories and turn them into shorts for a web series, but I wanted to make sure there are no legal constraints. Some of the stories are submitted anonymously, some not. I've begun contacting the non-anonymous submitters for permission to use their stories, but what about the anonymous submitters? If I made their story into a short film, do they have any legal claim to the story?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  BizIPEsq. replied 1 year ago.

BizIPEsq. :

Hello, I will be assisting you

BizIPEsq. :

Anonymous submitters have the same copyrights as known authors

BizIPEsq. :

the copyrights emanate from the work rather from the author therefore not being bylined does not diminish copyright protection

Customer:

Hmm, so does this mean I can't use those stories? The blog owner says she has no way to track down who submitted them.

BizIPEsq. :

unfortunately that would be the case. However you could use such stories as inspiration and author your own work by creating your own plot-lines, with your own characters etc.

BizIPEsq. :

you could also ask the blogger to post a request for the anonymous writer to get in touch with the blogger or with you

Customer:

Oh that's what I'm doing with all of the stories - just taking the general plot but giving it my own characters, my own dialogue, etc. But how do you distinguish what's fair use and what's not?

BizIPEsq. :

that's an excellent question that no one has the answer to except for a judge/jury if it ever comes to it

BizIPEsq. :

there is no bright line rules that separates inspiration and plagiarism

BizIPEsq. :

think of the plot line of boy-meets girl who likes another boy and how many times it has been repeated in various creative permutations

Customer:

So, for example, in one anonymous story the plot line is a couple people do the ouija board (it's a paranormal story blog) and they get a very specific creepy answer - if I use my own setting , scenario, characters and dialogue but I keep the ouija board and the answer from the original story, would you say that's leaning more towards fair use or plagiarism?

Customer:

Also, is there really a concrete way for someone to prove one of the anonymous stories are theirs? Tumblr (the blog site) leaves no trail for anonymous messages.

BizIPEsq. :

Generally the law does not work this way. One cannot pronounce something as infringing or not because the ultimate decision depends on the totality of circumstances and the reaction of the deciding people. It could be that the punch line is so unqiue that it does not matter that everything else was changed because people may associated the line with the "original" and say that this is just a copy.

Customer:

Ah, I see. I guess I better not use the anonymous stories then. Thank you!

BizIPEsq. :

as far as proving, I suppose the IP of the poster is known

BizIPEsq. :

you are welcome

BizIPEsq. :

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BizIPEsq., Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 996
Experience: I am a tech attorney and I represent clients with technology, internet and intellectual property matters
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