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Thread: Question about "inspired by a true story" Limits

  1. #1
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    Question about "inspired by a true story" Limits

    The other night I had an idea for a story that is pretty obviously based on a local event that got a lot of national (possibly international) news coverage.

    Now, my idea isn't what I think actually happened, just what I think would be an interesting story that happens to fit the public events. The problem is that there really isn't a way to change it from the source and still keep the plot intact.

    An example of this might be that nurse that hit the pedestrian a few years back and left him stuck in her window for a few days to bleed to death. It was used in both CSI and a movie called Stuck.

    What would the legal ramifications be form something like that?
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  2. #2
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    None. You can have all the ideas you want, and nobody will bother you at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tog_ View Post
    What would the legal ramifications be form something like that?
    My understanding is that, if the story really happened, events are considered to be in the public domain. When people refer to someone selling a story, what is being paid for is one individual person's version of it. The story can be told by anyone, which is how every single network had a made-for-TV version of, for example, the Amy Fisher story.
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    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    In that light, I understand it, but my concern is more along the lines of (to go with the Amy Fisher story) the wife wasn't the victim. She was actually the main antagonist that arranged for some easily manipulated girl to fall for her husband, then plant it in her mind that he will never leave his wife for the girl. The whole time, the wife's plot is to have the girl kill the husband.

    Would that change anything, or is it still regarded as public domain?

    Also, to continue with above, let's say there is no intention to actually make an alternate take on this story; it's just a work of fiction that has been loosely inspired by events in the news. It would be pretty obvious to the anyone familiar with those events that there are a lot of parallels, but the intent was never to present it as a version of the original events.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

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    Tog - you're not planning on using the actual names of the actual people involved, right? In that case, just write it up and call it fiction. You don't have to acknowledge that it was "inspired by true events." The only reason they do that is to try and generate additional interest in the story.

    But if you want to call it "inspired by true events" and are wondering how far off you can go and still do that, just consider that both "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Psycho" were "inspired by true events" - the same true events.
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

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    Unless you sell the story for a lot of money, nobody will care in any case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    When people refer to someone selling a story, what is being paid for is one individual person's version of it.
    I'm not sure about that. I think what is being sold is the right to refer to the original event in the advertizing hype. Instead of the bland "inspired by a real event", the ads can say "based on a real event" or "based on event xyz". In some cases, news footage of the event can be inserted into the fictional story. I remember a story from about 15 years ago. I forget the details but IIRC, it was about a very young girl who was trapped in a drain pipe for a couple of days. The parents sold the rights to the story for a made-for-tv movie, but were very unhappy with the result. The producer decided that it would be a better story if the family's marriage was about to break up and the crisis brought them back together again so they could live happily ever after when the girl was rescued. The parents argued very publicly that this was not the case, but they were told that they had no say in those matters. They had only sold rights to the title, and had very little rights in the movie's content.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jfribrg View Post
    I'm not sure about that. I think what is being sold is the right to refer to the original event in the advertizing hype. Instead of the bland "inspired by a real event", the ads can say "based on a real event" or "based on event xyz". In some cases, news footage of the event can be inserted into the fictional story. I remember a story from about 15 years ago. I forget the details but IIRC, it was about a very young girl who was trapped in a drain pipe for a couple of days. The parents sold the rights to the story for a made-for-tv movie, but were very unhappy with the result. The producer decided that it would be a better story if the family's marriage was about to break up and the crisis brought them back together again so they could live happily ever after when the girl was rescued. The parents argued very publicly that this was not the case, but they were told that they had no say in those matters. They had only sold rights to the title, and had very little rights in the movie's content.
    When I was a junior in high school, there were three separate movies (in the same week) about the Menendez murders. All of them used the real names; all of them used the real events. I don't think any of them involved anyone's story being "sold."
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    The only downside to using the actual names is that you have to be very carefull that the work is either accurate, or clearly intended as fiction to avoid any kind of liable or slander charge.

    Regardless, I don't see what's wrong with "Inspired by a true story". In fact, it may help establish the work as fiction. After all, if you were writing what actually happened, then it would just be "a true story".

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    Tog - you're not planning on using the actual names of the actual people involved, right? In that case, just write it up and call it fiction. You don't have to acknowledge that it was "inspired by true events." The only reason they do that is to try and generate additional interest in the story.

    But if you want to call it "inspired by true events" and are wondering how far off you can go and still do that, just consider that both "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Psycho" were "inspired by true events" - the same true events.
    So was the "Buffalo Bill" character in Silence of the Lambs. Good point.

    I don't plan to use the real names, but the events are such that I wouldn't probably wouldn't need to for it to recognized locally. I was wondering more about "cease and desist" orders and the like. I didn't plan on mentioning it was based on true events.

    Thanks for the input, all.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

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    Just noticed in the intro credits to "Operation Petticoat":
    ...Suggested by a story by...

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    According to what I've read, pretty much everything in Operation Petticoat really happened. Just not all to the same sub.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    You could always tout it as "Ripped from today's headlines!!!"

    Make sure to use three exclamation points.

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    Was the author of Dr. Doolittle inspired by a slug's trail he encountered on the sidewalk one morning?

    Well, it sure fit with the ending of his book, although he needed a bit of imagination to bring the reader there...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    Tog - you're not planning on using the actual names of the actual people involved, right? In that case, just write it up and call it fiction. You don't have to acknowledge that it was "inspired by true events." The only reason they do that is to try and generate additional interest in the story.

    But if you want to call it "inspired by true events" and are wondering how far off you can go and still do that, just consider that both "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Psycho" were "inspired by true events" - the same true events.
    italics mine

    Can you elaborate on that a little please?

    Pete

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    Quote Originally Posted by peter eldergill View Post
    italics mine

    Can you elaborate on that a little please?

    Pete
    Quotes are all italicized.

    Are you talking about the "Psycho" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" part? Both movies were "inspired by" Ed Gein.

    But my point was that the movies were so very, very different that it makes it quite obvious that you can point to a true story as the inspiration for your fition when there's almost nothing in your fiction that really happened.
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

  17. #17
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    Quotes are all italicized
    HA!

    How embarrassing for me! I usually bold in the quote but some of your sentence was already bolded, so I thought to be clever . Perhaps next time I'll use ALLCAPS (tm) instead. Heh

    Yes I was talking about the inspiration. I didn't know that . I'll check out your link. Thanks

    Pete

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