Adaption of a public domain story?

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ChroniclerOfLegends
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Adaption of a public domain story?

#1 Post by ChroniclerOfLegends » Sat May 26, 2018 1:19 pm

Hey, sorry if this question has been asked before, but I am curious about copyright/trademark rules and public domain stories.

Specifically I am thinking about making a loose adaption of Beauty and the Beast, and I have heard Disney defends their copyrights very aggressively, even though the original story is public domain.

Now that being said, the only reason I am interested in adapting it is I think I have a very interesting twist on the story that changes things significantly.
Completely different setting/ characters/ time period.

What would I need to be careful about NOT doing to avoid trouble?

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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#2 Post by Mammon » Sat May 26, 2018 5:51 pm

What not to do:
-Use anything explicitly Disney like their images, music, etc.
-Use any additions that Disney added to the original story, f.e. I don't know if Gaston is originally in there.
-Worry too much, unless your story becomes an unexpected success (and don't assume it will be) Disney won't bother with anything but the most direct copyright enfringement. The lawsuit would be several hundred times more expensive than what they can get from you most likely.

So, probably skim through the original works to see what they used and what they didn't so you can be absolutely sure that none stand a case of saying you stole anything. But don't worry too much, there are plenty of fairy tales that got got projects of much bigger scale without Disney doing anything about it. And if you can in any way sell that twist as 'satire or a parody on the original story' then your case becomes almost entirely bulletproof.
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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#3 Post by ChroniclerOfLegends » Sat May 26, 2018 7:47 pm

Cool, thanks for the quick response!

Yea No Gaston at all. Of course I am only in the idea phase, but the only big similarity I can think of to the Disney adaption is that the female lead likes to read.

That's a good idea to re-read the original source material and watch the movie and note the differences that Disney added. Gives me an excuse to watch it again lol.

Does any of that change if I wanted to sell it? Anything get more strict?

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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#4 Post by Zelan » Sat May 26, 2018 9:33 pm

ChroniclerOfLegends wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 7:47 pm
Cool, thanks for the quick response!

Yea No Gaston at all. Of course I am only in the idea phase, but the only big similarity I can think of to the Disney adaption is that the female lead likes to read.

That's a good idea to re-read the original source material and watch the movie and note the differences that Disney added. Gives me an excuse to watch it again lol.

Does any of that change if I wanted to sell it? Anything get more strict?
Not really, I don't think. Mammon already covered pretty much everything that you can do to safeguard against getting slammed with a copyright claim, and since the story is public domain, you really do get quite a lot of free rein. Having the female lead enjoy reading is not enough for them to make a case off of, and like Mammon said, unless your game gets wildly popular they wouldn't be able to make much money off of you anyway.

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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#5 Post by Mammon » Sun May 27, 2018 2:40 am

Jup, see above. Selling instead of a free project makes it marginally more risky, but not exactly getting to that 1% risk rating.
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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#6 Post by papillon » Tue May 29, 2018 12:18 pm

People make and sell new adaptations of old fairy tales all the time. I expect I can dig up several recent novels on the theme with just a little looking.

If you've got a cool twist, you should be good.

If you are worried, one thing you can do is use elements that are specifically from the original sources, things that disney REMOVED. That makes it more clear that you are working from the public domain story. For example, in the original Beauty is the youngest of six children, and the conflict is largely between her and her family rather than between her and Gaston. (Well, technically in the ORIGINAL original, according to wikipedia, she's a half-fairy princess who was swapped for the merchant's dead youngest daughter in order to hide her from an evil fairy who wanted to kill her, or something like that.)

You can also dig even further back and use elements of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, which went into the fairytale. Early fairytale version do have the Beast being different by night, which is more similar to Cupid.


Things I would personally avoid:
- Making her father an inventor or naming him Maurice
- Gaston
- Having the castle servants turned into enchanted objects, unless that actually was in Villeneuve's original (I haven't read the original french!)

Things you can probably get away with:
- Calling her Belle IF your story is set in France, because the original story IS french.
- Giving her a gold dress if you really wanted to, because you can call this an 'homage'


... ugh, I want to go find the real original now instead of the condensed Blue Fairy Book version I grew up with.

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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#7 Post by AntiquedFae » Tue May 29, 2018 7:29 pm

As has been said by those far more knowledgeable than I, you should have no problems whatsoever with copyright unless you blatantly rip off the plot or a character's design. Try as Disney might, they can't stop people from using tales that have been a part of our different cultures for hundreds of years and were created by the folk--hence the name folktales.

I want to echo Papillon that using elements Disney left out is likely the wisest bet, not just for avoiding any legal issues, but to make your story far more unique, well-researched and distinct.
Book-loving Beauty should be fine, since in older versions there are all the typical magic castle ideal things (all sorts of priceless material treasures, a garden which never has winter, delicious food which never runs out, things which magically appear when you want them etc.) but it also has a much less common feature listed among its riches: it lists a library with all the books that have ever been written, are being written and will be written across all of time and I think there might have been something about being able to understand all languages of the books in some versions but that is only a slight hunch. The fact that Beauty gets excited about the library is generally believed to show she is very educated and took the time to study when she was rich while her sisters frivolously partied.

That is something that I'd really recommend using, actually. Making them rich in the beginning, with Beauty having siblings (at least two sisters) and then have their father's fortunes fall into ruin because it comes up very consistently in different versions.

Another aspect that would be very wise to use is have the Beast be only a beast in appearance as in the older versions, not with a beastly personality since that is something pretty well unique to the Disney version. All other iterations to my limited knowledge have him extremely gentle and polite in behaviour.

Something else that might be smart is a recurring request he asks Beauty every night which at first seems ridiculous but she eventually happily agrees to. Sometimes this was 'Will you marry me, Beauty?' and in an older version it was 'Will you share your bed with me?' and I think there's a main other one but I can't remember right now.

Anyways, the storytellers tell the takes far better than I so I won't blabber on, and instead give you a helpful link: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/beau ... index.html
This is a link to one of the older versions of the story, with annotations for deeper understanding. Sur la Lune is a great website for hearing older versions of folktales and I highly recommend you check it out!
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Re: Adaption of a public domain story?

#8 Post by ChroniclerOfLegends » Tue Jun 05, 2018 5:55 pm

Thanks for all of your replies, this has been some really great info!

From what you have all said, I think I should be fine. My idea is only loosely based on the idea, of one character falling in love with another who is cursed with the appearance of a beast. Setting, side characters, time period, etc. are all very very different.

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