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So I am a writer and I personally like to take ideas from other stories and make them my own. Of course I won't copy something obvious like "Once upon a time there was a boy name Parker Peter who got bit by a spider and got spider powers" But more like for a book like Harry Potter maybe I could write about a wizard. But occasionally, I will stumble upon a story that has such a great concept I just want to rewrite the whole thing! And often times those good stories and books just end at the first book or the series ends after a period of time. What if I want to write a story about the descendants of Sabrina from The Sister's Grimm? I hate when characters have children but I don't get to know about those children? My main question is if it would it be legal to write a story about the descendants of a character from a story that I did not write? Would I be copyrighted?

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  • I am a new user so please point out ANY mistakes i have :D if you need clarification i will try to fix ASAP
    – user64011
    Commented May 14 at 18:11
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    Welcome to Writing.SE! I've closed your question as a duplicate as I believe the linked question answers yours.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 14 at 18:51
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    @F1Krazy The asker mentions in their profile being in the 5th grade. It's possible they don't even know the term "fanfiction". You closed the question as I was trying to write a short introduction to the concept.
    – Divizna
    Commented May 14 at 18:54
  • @Divizna Having taken a second look, I now notice that this question is about being allowed to write a sequel, whereas the other question is about being allowed to publish a sequel. I think those are different enough that this can actually remain open.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 14 at 19:01

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You can use stories whose copyright has expired. Copyright in the USA expires 70 years after the author has died. That means that you can use a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but you cannot use Harry Potter.

Copyright extends to characters (the son of Harry Potter), locations (Hogwarts), and unique story elements (playing a team sport on flying brooms). It does not cover more general ideas (a school for magic, flying brooms) that can be found in other stories as well or that anyone could have come up with on their own.

Some writers allow fanfiction, that is stories about their characters or in their world, if no one (!) makes money with it. That is if you write it for your friends or publish it on a website for free (and that website doesn't contain advertising to make money), some fanfiction is allowed. I don't know what J. K. Rowling's stance is on fanfiction, though, and you may have to research that.

Generally, the better approach in most cases is to come up with your own stories.

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You can write anything you want — assuming you are not living somewhere like North Korea. In fact, rewriting short stories and chapters of novels that you enjoy is one technique to learn how to write well and tell stories well. Many of my instructors have encouraged it because it gets you thinking about why stories work and don’t work.

You can even share what you write, free of legal consequence, as long as it is on an individual basis. Like you can share you imagining of Harry Potter 8: The Mortgage’s Prisoner with a friend.

What is illegal, and can get you — or your parents (if you’re a minor) — sued, is publish your Harpy Rotter story. That includes putting it on a web page that anyone can read. That would most likely be infringement. And there are draconian civil punishments for infringing on someone else’s literary rights. It doesn’t matter if you make any money at all, you can still be sued.

There are lots of exceptions to infringement like parody and literary criticism — this is not an exhaustive list. It is an easily researched subject if you want more information.

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So, basically, you want to take an existing story and expand on it with a sequel (or prequel or a side storyline). This is called fanfiction. It's a very popular genre of writing, but confined pretty much entirely to the amateur sphere.

The legal limitations of what you're allowed to do with a fanfiction story depend a lot on whether the copyright of the original is still in effect or has expired, and also slightly vary depending on the jurisdiction of your country. In most countries of the world, the copyright of a written work (note that it may be different for works of other media) expires seventy years after the author's death (there's an international agreement about it, that's why it's the same). So for most works that you like and want to expand on, the copyright is probably still in effect.

This means that if you wanted to publish your story commercially, you'd need the copyright holder's permission. And these are very hard to get, effectively impossible in most cases. But that's probably not your ambition any time soon anyway.

When it comes to sharing your work with your audience on a noncommercial basis, this is generally either completely legal, or at least tolerated. Many big name writers are on record stating that they're happy with their readers writing and sharing fanfiction. There are also a few who have declared the opposite, but they're in distinct minority; some fanfiction archives (e. g. fanfiction.net) refuse to accept stories based on the work of these authors.

In this era, fanfiction is mostly shared with other fans through internet. (Before that, there used to be fanzines. It isn't a new phenomenon.) There are sites dedicated to it - fanfiction archives, where users can post their works for others to read. The biggest of these, as far as I know, are Archive of Our Own (aka AO3) and FanFiction.net. Both accept stories based on pretty much any original work and in any language. FF.net has a bit of stricter rules and is more family-friendly of the two: doesn't accept sexually explicit works or stories about real people. At AO3 it's more like "anything goes", but the things that you don't want to run into unaware are usually marked with an appropriate rating or warning, so you can make your own informed decision what to read (unfortunately not always; if the author has no good sense, they're free to put very tasteless things not just in the story itself, but even in the summary). The very popular fandoms used to have their own archives, but as far as I can tell, those have declined in the last fifteen years or so.

Some authors prefer to post their works not in an archive, but on their own personal site or blog instead.

Regarding copyright: If you create a story, you own the copyright. In case of fanfiction, you can't publish it without permission of the original work's creator, but that doesn't make your rights as an author any less protected: nobody is allowed to post your story without your permission, much less place their own name on it.

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