I've read this book that has tips on how to live healthy. Forget the fact that there are many like it out there, that's not the point, and it's not about specific book. Now I am just curious how does that process work.

If I were to create an app that uses principles from that book, or any other for that matter, would that be infringing on the book? I mean could the writer of that book be able to sue and stuff like that? I know that would 100% happen if I were writing a book but does it cover wide variety of things like apps? I am not saying that I want to write in the app that those were my principles, not at all; just use those principles to calculate things.

Sure, in millions of apps today no-one is likely to notice it, but I would like to know is this considered illegal or do book copyrights even cover apps?

  • I assume that the app you want to write is an open source app. – Philippe Ombredanne Dec 23 '16 at 15:56
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a general question of law, and so belongs on Law. – curiousdannii Dec 24 '16 at 16:56

This is a great question with no easy answer and a complicated matter!

The key thing is that in general with copyrights, when something is a "derivative or derived" work, then the original author or rights holder may have some rights. And if the author has some rights, you may not have full rights and full latitude to do what you want to do, be it in an open source or proprietary app.

Let's take a few hypothetical cases: Say you create a new movie that is a sequel to Star Wars or Harry Potter. Would this be a derivative of the original series? Would you infringe on the copyright of Mr. Wars or Sir Potter? The answer seems a clear yes.

At the other end of the spectrum say you create an app on dieting that describes a new way to loose weight. Is this a possible derivative work of existing diet books? If yours is truly original, it is quite unlikely.

But what if you borrowed ideas, some words and the weird method that this diet offers to compute and limit the amount of food you eat based on the number bites you grab times the teeth on your fork? Is this now a derivative work? It or may not be. This could be a grey area based on the specific context and what you have effectively reused.

Grey areas are not a good place to be in: so my suggestion would be either to get legal advice to clear things up and/or contact the original diet book author(s) to get their permission.

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    It's worth noting here that words can be copyright but ideas cannot. – Glenn Randers-Pehrson Dec 23 '16 at 15:46
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    See copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html [US] Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. – Glenn Randers-Pehrson Dec 23 '16 at 15:54
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    And to add to the complexity, copyright laws may differ from country to country. – Philippe Ombredanne Dec 23 '16 at 15:55
  • Ideas can be patented, however, at least in US law. And that leads to a whole nother topic. – Xiong Chiamiov Dec 28 '16 at 1:40

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