Someone asked me the other day if he'd be stealing from the Terminator books if he wrote about a character with a retractable bayonet in its gauntlet. Oh, yeah. Let me at this one! Here's my response.
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Copyright pertains to specific creative expressions and how they're assembled in a precise arrangement. If, for example, you wrote about a character with a retractable bayonet in its gauntlet and described the scene in your book word-for-word as it's described in the Terminator work, you're committing plagiarism—that is, you're violating copyright by stealing someone else's work. But, if you use a different description than the original (paraphrasing by using a different word order, words with similar meanings to the original words, changing sentence structure), you're not. Regardless of whether or not the bayonet is "logical," as one commentator foolishly advised, it's not infringement. Logic has NOTHING to do with copyright.
Remember: For a writer, WORDS in their specific arrangement in original works are copyright-protected by their creators or assigns from the moment of creation; concepts, gizmos, and gimcracks aren't. And, no, it doesn't matter whether or not the gizmos go back a thousand years into history. Words written in a specific order can be copyrighted; concepts or things can't be. Read More