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AUs with Names Changed

I've been wondering- what would be the legal situation if one were to write an AU fanfiction taking place either in the real world or a world of the fan's creation (or maybe an in-verse fic for a series that takes place in the real world), and then change the names?

Could they then claim it was original? Could they sell it as their own work? Would it change the situation if the original fanfic, with the names unchanged, was still available online?

I ask because I've read a lot of Twilight AUs with all werewolf or vampire characters as humans, and the characters are often so changed it seems they might as well be original.

EDIT: Also, what about real-person fiction (RPF) AUs, or fics that don't mention whatever real thing the people are a part of (their band, or the show/movie they acted in, etc)? If the names were changed, what would that mean? Could it be called original, and would having the fic with names unchanged online affect that?

Comments

cschick
Mar. 19th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
And filing the serial numbers off is not uncommon in the sf/fantasy genre for debut novels.
stmarc
Mar. 21st, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
It may be a little more common in SF/Fantasy, but as has been observed there are only X* original stories, and all the rest are just variations. Filing off the serial numbers and slapping on a coat of paint is the only way any even slightly well-read person can "create" a new story. You'd have to be a feral child raised by wolves not to know the basic storylines of your culture - and for all I know wolves use the same ones we do. (They're smart, but they're not THAT smart.) The devil, obviously, is in the details.

Probably my favorite example of this is "West Side Story." It's obviously - and of course this is not my original deduction - a retelling of "Romeo and Juliet." But while lots of people like both, either could appeal to a huge audience which wouldn't care for the other despite their being basically the same story.

*"X" is usually quoted as anywhere from five to a hundred, but it's a very small number related even to the number of fictional books which are published in any given year.
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