The Business of Writing > Laws about Writing

An Internet post question

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I've been batting around a novel, barely in the beginning stages and it may never even get started. It started to percolate from several Internet forums on which I post or just read.

On a couple of the forums, a certifiably (I believe) paranoid schizophrenic has been posting, saying she's being stalked, harassed, libeled and threatened by dozens of stalkers, employed by somebody who hates her and wants some documents she supposedly possesses. They have bugs planted in her home to listen to her, have taps on her phone line, tell her where she can go, what she can wear, etc, etc.

What I'd like to know is, if this book gets off the ground  and since those posts are out there for the world to see, can they be used, or taken and modified slightly? No living human can write her rambling, incoherent nonsense and do it justice. Obviously her name wouldn't be used. Just curious if such laws exist on Internet postings.

Hi Chuck,
Interesting question. Here is what I know about the status of intellectual property on the internet at the moment. Basically it is illegalish - It's a definite grey area. One of the things it depends on is who actually owns the copyright. This is a very difficult area since in both Google and Yahoo supported blogs or forums the contents are claimed by the companies. It's in the fine print. Even e-mails and photos transmitted via Google.  Google clearly (but buried in very fine print) claims all copyright to anything that passes through any of their services.

Whether this wholesale claim where permission is assumed by agreeing to all the terms included in screens and screens of fine print will be supported by courts if a case ever gets there, is dubious.

With e-mails specifically there is much less interest in protecting them under current copyright laws.

It might be interesting to see what the sponsor of the forum you're reading has to say about it.

I would say that using it as inspiration would not be a problem. And text books on the subject usually have examples of this sort of personal expression, a good source for more language.  My mother was so good at the paranoia bit that she fooled experts. Had more than one hysterical shrink who bit hook, line, and sinker, calling me to say that I had to get to Chicago instantly, because s/he had fallen for one of her more creative stories.


Dave Freas:
Hi, Chuck.

I'm no legal expert, but common sense says you could write such a novel free from worries about Copyright infringement.

I'm sure there have been other novels (maybe many) written about people such as the lady you describe.  You're just adding the new twist of her displaying her paranoia in a post on a forum instead of whispering it to friends and neighbors.  As long as you don't drop her postings verbatim into your novel, I think you'd be safe.

You mentioned in your post that No living human can write her rambling, incoherent nonsense and do it justice.  I'll bet if you study her postings and play with them a bit, you can produce equally (un)realistic postings for your novel that no one could ever trace back to that lady.   

Just my $0.02.

Hope this helps.


B L McAllister:
I strongly suspect that, if you try, you'll find you can imitate her rants without using her words.  To say it can't be done based on only a few tries (or none) seems to me to be throwing the towel in a bit early.

Dave Freas:

--- Quote from: Byron Leon McAllister on January 30, 2009, 01:40:35 PM ---I strongly suspect that, if you try, you'll find you can imitate her rants without using her words.
--- End quote ---
Exactly what I was saying only stated more clearly.

Thanks, Byron



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