Minnesota  |  Intellectual Property

Legal Question

Asked on: 8/24/13, 1:42 pm

I intend to write a play that takes the characters of an already famous play and shows them 30 years later. My play would lift no description, dialogue, or story line from the original. I would use only the names of the original characters. For example, if I wrote a play titled, "The Streetcar Doesn't Stop Here Any More," and the characters in the play were named Stanley, Stella, and Blanche and it was all about Stanley battling prostate cancer. Would I be violating any copyright protection of the original? Joan

1 Answer


Answered on: 8/24/13, 4:45 pm by Nancy Delain

By using another author's characters, your play potentially becomes what is called a "derivative work." Copyright protects derivative works under 17 USC 103, which reads, in relevant part, "(a) The subject matter of copyright as specified by section 102 includes compilations and derivative works...."

There are ways to create derivative works without running afoul of copyright. Please feel free to give my office a call to set up a phone appointment to discuss this matter.

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