Is it possible to rewrite a book into a more modern story to be a screenplay? That is, if there is an old book about a person who embarks on a life journey, and it's set in Africa, for example, and the main character is a man, but in my version it's set in a city and the main character is a woman. The character's life journey has similar developments (it's inspired by the old book), but it doesn't have the actual events as the old book. Is that allowed? If the preface includes a refrence to "inspired by the book...", is that ok? Or do I need permission from the writer of the book? The author is still alive.

  • 3
    "The original is set in Africa but my version is set in a city," oh dear.
    – Divizna
    Commented Apr 18 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


If all you change are the setting and the sex of the protagonist, your work is probably going to be considered plagiarism. If the copyright of the original has expired, this is not going to be a legal problem. People adapt older works all the time. If the copyright still holds, you need permission to do this.

If your story is fundamentally changed so that everyone reading it will consider it a new and independent creation that was merely inspired by the original, you are fine.

But there are no exact criteria for what you need to do to be safe. Every case is unique and every court of law will rule differently. Getting sued is a risk you are taking when you don't come up with your own story.

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