Q: I am writing a dark-retelling of beauty and the beast. If I have a similar character named Gaston, is there copyright?
His looks are pretty similar, slightly different. He has a completely original backstory, different motivations for going after Belle, and a different death than he does in the movie.
A: Maybe, it depends.
You need to consult with an attorney before you get into any trouble.
A: Beauty and the Beast was a french fairy tale from the 1700's. That story is in the public domain. If you stray too close to Disney's version, you may have issues. Ultimately, the question is too complex for this forum. As Mr. Garciacosta suggested, an attorney who focuses his or her practice on intellectual property will be able to provide you more guidance once he analyzes your work.
A: Disney owns the naming rights to most of its characters and has a reputation for being vigilant and aggressive. If the story and Gaston are recognizable, you could easily run afoul of Disney lawyers. Is the book a private for profit work or more of a fan fiction thing? You are much less likely to run into trouble in the fan fiction arena, which publish generally think of as non-competitive. If you are trying to hit the NYT Bestseller list, you are much more likely to draw their attention.
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