Sunday 19th April 2015


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Third party sequels, prequels and fan fiction – mis-taken identity?

Mailin Balan

Associate, Shoosmiths

Fanfiction is described by the online writing platform Wattpad as ‘writing that remixes characters, places, or plots from existing narratives to tell new, original stories.‘ Here Mailin Bala, Associate at Shoosmiths considers whether copyright owners are able to protect their plots, themes and characters from third party sequels, prequels and fan fiction, and reveals a complex legal arena.

The announcement by Quercus Publishing that a fourth book in the ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo‘ trilogy written by David Lagercrantz is to be published in August this year has promoted the resurgence of the question: can copyright owners can protect their plots, themes and characters from being used in unauthorised works created by third parties.

Of course, in this particular case, the question does not arise, as the estate of Stieg Larson and Quercus Publishing, as copyright owners, have commissioned the new book themselves. But what is the legal position where that is not the case? What can copyright owners do (if anything) to protect their plots, themes and characters from unauthorised use?

The legal position

We take a look at how a copyright owner can seek to protect its works below. However, to put this all in context, let’s first look at the basics of what constitutes copyright and how it can be infringed.

English law specifies a list of works in which copyright can subsist, including literary, dramatic and artistic works. To infringe a copyright work, a person must have carried out, or authorised the carrying out, of one or more of a number of prohibited acts (including copying or adapting the original work) in relation to a ‘substantial part’ of the work, without the consent of the copyright owner. ‘Adapting’ is very narrowly defined to include making a translation and making a non-dramatic work into a dramatic work and vice versa and so it is of limited use when looking at the appropriation of plots, themes and characters in the context we are looking at.

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The Literary Platform turns 5

Sophie Rochester

Partner, The Literary Platform

Today is our 5th Birthday! On 10 April 2010 we posted our first articles on The Literary Platform, a humble WordPress blog designed by Sam Oakley, with the aim of creating an umbrella home for digital and literature projects, and thinking in the area.

At launch the response was really encouraging with hundreds of nice tweets and direct messages, and press coverage in The Guardian, Creative Review, Design Week, Digital Arts, The Bookseller, Computer World, Bookbrunch and PC World.

Our favourite reactions were ‘wow!’ (we had a few of those), ”bookmarked‘, ‘looks great‘, ‘recommended’,loving The Literary Platform’, ‘love the idea of the Literary Platform’, ‘very useful’, ‘very interesting‘, ‘a good read’, ‘brilliant’, ‘great site and content’, ‘invaluable’,great showcase’, ‘really nice initiative’ and ‘well done!’

Lots of messages came from readers the UK, but also from Tokyo, New York, Canada, New Zealand and New Mexico. We had over 2,600 readers from 66 different countries in the first 24 hours. In addition, we had a great response from publishers, writers and developers sending over projects that The Literary Platform hadn’t yet showcased. Read more »

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