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Question
There are so many ideas out there that I would like to draw inspiration from. This is most particulary true on human sized elves and their culture and background. However, I am worried that the information I would like to draw inspiration from is copyrighted and therefore not accessable to someone like me who would like to consider publishing their stories. What can I do? Is it possible to legally publish work with inspiration from these ideas, or is the only thing I can do try to ask for permission?  
Thank you very much for reading

Answer
J:

Feel free!

Ideas cannot be copyrighted.  Information, even, cannot be copyrighted.  What CAN be copyrighted are specific words on paper.

You could, for example, write a novel about a young person who, at the age of eleven, is informed that he/she is a wizard and must go off to learn wizardry at a special school.  And J.K. Rowling couldn't sue you for it.  Now, the general public would probably call you call kinds of names for being so blatant about lifting from her work, so I really don't recommend doing that.

But if you're just using information as a source of inspiration, you probably don't have anything to worry about.

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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