It's still early yet, but I'm working on fantasy novel. To cut a long story short, it features characters from Earth in a fresh fantasy setting, and one of the cast is a bit of nerdy and inclined to make little side comments and compare stuff in the world to fantasy cliches.

Thing is, I'm planning to get this work published and sold for profit and the references to other works are likely to be minor and many. How far can I go before I have to worry about getting sued?

My major inspiration would be the comic book 'Scot Pilgrim Vs the World' with things like its '+2 vs blonds' bats Dungeons and Dragons reference, and other nods to gaming and nerdy things.


From a copyright point of view to take advantage of fair use to the maximum you could have every line that the character speaks include a quote from his favorite show and probably be fine. Annoying, but fine. This would be transformative use, namely that the quotes are changed by their context to the extent that they no longer serve their original function. A great example of this is the classic Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, in which Steve Martin has a conversation with characters that are dead pieced together from quotes (clips) of old movies. You could even take this to a more ridiculous extreme by composing your entire book from quotes from other books taken out of context and juxtaposed for humorous effect. Say you took Jane Eyre and replaced all the dialog with Simpsons quotes, lines from Alice in Wonderland and other famous quotes. You would have an entirely new work that would probably not appeal to either fans of Jane Eyre or The Simpsons. (I would read it.)

Unfortunately this may change: There are people who are working to eliminate fair use by use of treaties.

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  • "Unfortunately this may change: There are people who are working to eliminate fair use," Period, Kudos for sounding a timely warning, – Tom Au Jul 10 '16 at 6:58

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