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What is the procedure if you want to set a story in a world created by someone else?
If, after reading someone else's novel I came up with some neat plot that would fit into that novel's world, but would be a separate story from the original, with maybe some peripheral contact with some of the originals characters; is it allowed? Can I do it without explicit permission (I think doing this would at the very least be extremely discourteous)?

My gut-feel is that it involves some kind of IP that requires permission/deal of some kind.

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Contrary to popular belief, "IP" is a myth. (That doesn't copyright is a myth... it's as real as trademarks and patents) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 13 '10 at 14:04
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@jae: There are things which may or may not actually exist - yet they are very real in shaping reality, and thus definitely manifest their existence through their effects. This specifically includes myths. –  Piskvor Dec 13 '10 at 16:51
    
Do you mean fan fiction? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_fiction –  MGOwen Dec 14 '10 at 2:25
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Tagged as fan-fiction because the issues brought up here are common to FF. –  Neil Fein Dec 14 '10 at 6:45
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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I promise you, if you do it without permission and get published nonetheless, they will sue the shit out of you.

You have to ask for permission, there will be legal contracts, because the world's "owner" wants money, your story must really fit and must not disrupt anything the owner wants to do in the future.

So, if you have a name and are already published, you maybe have a chance, if you are a nobody, then I suggest finding your own world.

On the other hand, there are Universes which are written by several authors (e.g. Shadowrun). If you want to write for one of these worlds, contact the organization owning the rights to this Universe. They can tell you what they expect and what you have to do.

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your first sentence agrees with my gut-feel (lol). You mention Shadowrun, are there any other such collaborative ventures where a novice can cut his teeth, so to speak? –  slashmais Dec 13 '10 at 9:17
    
@slashmais: Every pen&paper roleplaying game has its book series. Warhammer, AD&D, ... There are hundreds. You should already be familiar with the universe before starting to write for it. I wouldn't go for things as big as Perry Rhodan. Too many competitive authors there and probably the Rhodan guys follow the "don't call us, we call you" strategy. But I don't know. –  John Smithers Dec 13 '10 at 9:56
    
Note if you don't plan to publish commercially - fanfiction while a gray (and a darker shade of gray) area is generally welcome or at least not fought actively. As long as your work attracts customers to the original instead of competing with it for money, the creators are quite willing to close an eye on your "IP violations". –  SF. Apr 26 '13 at 1:53
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Most books have this page with small-print at the front or back which usually goes like (example from the book nearest to my bed):

© Dan Simmons 2004
Hyperion copyright © 1989;
All rights reserved

This means that the book has specific copyright claimed to it. In most countries (I am not a lawyer, don't blame/believe me, yada...) copyright is implicit so the fact that a book doesn't have such a page doesn't mean there is no copyright.

Now a book may be in the public domain and these are either very old books - 200 years to be on the safe side or books that have been explicitly released to the public domain (with something like "I, Jakub Hampl, author of this post, hereby release it to the public domain.")

Then you may use the characters, the world, hell even the storyline anyway you wish. So if you were greatly inspired by the Diamond Sutra you can freely use a world with Subhūti chatting of with Budha all you like. Alas the Hyperion of Dan Simmons will stay forbidden for quite a while.

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I liked this post which is a similar question. There's no reason not to go with your idea, see how it turns out. You could always edit things later, even core elements. If you have a story in you, get it out there :)

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If you are writing it to make money: don't.

If the world created gives you inspiration and makes you sit down and write for hours, then go ahead and do it. It's your mind, and you can write whatever you want as long as it's not published.

Let people/editors/whoever read it, and if the feedback tells you it is really, really good, the you can contact the author/publisher of the original story and let them read it. Maybe they are willing to cut you a deal.

They probably won't though, but hey, you got inspiration enough to write a whole story. Your skill and experience as a writer probably got knocked up several notches.

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