Was it theft, or acceptable creative borrowing?

Many years ago, I watched one of those court shows. In it, a girl in her teens was suing an established author. I believe the girl had won a contest (sponsored perhaps by the author) and won mentoring from this lady author.

The girl sued the author because the author ended up writing the exact story the young girl was working on. In fact, the author ‘generously’ spent “extra” time with the girl, all the while pumping her for information. Having no shame, or perhaps thinking no one would ever find out, the established author even used some of the same names for characters that the girl had told her she would use for her own characters.

The judge sided with the author saying there is a lot of ‘creative sharing’ that goes on, and that was part of being a writer.

I guess the Judge didn’t understand that there is a fine line. It’s one thing if J.K. Rowlings publishes her book and suddenly every writer jumps on the band wagon and writes about little orphan wizards saving the world. They may have borrowed the main concept, but they came up with their own characters and story lines. The author in court stole the characters, their names, their adventures: the whole story, not just the main concept. I always thought that she should have lost the court case.

Are you afraid, or cautious to share with other writers you’re unfamiliar with? Do you carefully guard your story ideas? Apparently you should…cheating



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