I have a question about copyrighting.

I was scrolling through tumblr the other day and someone had posted an idea that said something about people seeing in black and white until they meet their soul mate - then they see in color.

I really like this idea and would want to use it in my fiction novel, but I was wondering if that is considered copying? I don't want to copy someone's idea.

Can you use any idea posted on social media or is it considered stealing someone's ideas?

  • 1
    Copywrite aside it is stealing someone's idea, and backlash doesn't have to be leagal to be damaging. This also sounds a lot like Pleasantville imo.
    – CLockeWork
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 14:23
  • 1
    That idea was not original to whoever posted it on social media, or to any person still living. Are there lilac trees In the heart of town? Can you hear a lark in any other part of town? Does enchantment pour Out of every door? No, it's just on the street where you live.
    – user16226
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 13:48

3 Answers 3


Ideas are not protected by copyright.

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. (Copyright Law of the United States of America, § 102 (b))

Copyright only protects works.

Anyone can use any idea, even ideas that have been turned into works. If you chose to write a novel about a postapocalyptic society forcing teens to go through some media event where they had to kill each other, Suzanne Collins couldn't sue you (or she would long since have sued Veronica Roth and her other imitators).

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    Yes, beat me to it :) You DO NOT infringe a copyright if you DO NOT use any phrases from the other piece of writing without permission. Copyright does not cover ideas; it covers the final work itself and derivatives. Derivatives would only include stories using the same universe or characters. You cannot copyright concepts, theories scientific or artistic, writing techniques, plot devices. (In the same way you cannot patent laws of nature or mathematics. Software patents are a grey area in legal theory for this reason, but courts consider them valid at the moment.) Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 8:09
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    It's always worth remembering that anybody can sue anybody for anything, even if it's a stupid lawsuit that'd get thrown out of court. Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 22:24

As others have already stated, there is no copyright or patent in ideas only in the expression of those ideas.

For example, Romeo and Juliet has probably been written and re-written a thousand times since Shakespeare wrote the original play. Think about West Side Story: that is essentially the updating and retelling of a very old tale.

So long as how you tell the story is fresh and original, the fact that you took an idea, thought or concept as your inspiration does not matter.

  • While your basic point is sound, your example could be better; Romeo and Juliet isn't under copyright. Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 22:25
  • That is true. However, most of the retellings will have been under copyright at some point in their existence and that will not have prevented other authors from adapting the story to their own ends without fear of infringement of any of those copyrights. Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 10:54

This idea was used in a TV show called "John Doe", but I don't remember in which episode it was.

wikipedia link

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