Unseen Characters and Copyright

Friday, 01st March, 2024
Author: Shuchi Nagpal

Who are Unseen Characters?

Remember Howard's mom on 'The Big Bang Theory'? She was never really shown. But she was a unique enough character with some unforgettable traits.

Another one. Maris Crane on the hit show 'Frasier'. While she is never shown, the character still got a lot of air time with jokes on how impossibly thin and pale she was.

But of course, nothing probably beats 'the ugly, naked guy' from 'Friends'! He lived across from Monica and Rachel’s apartment, he played the cello, slept in a hammock, had dates and once even killed his cat by sitting on it, because he was morbidly obese.

That's an unseen character - a fictional character that is not explicitly revealed in the work.

In literature, films, or other creative works, there are instances where characters remain offstage or are hinted at but never fully described or shown.

The question arises: should these unseen characters be eligible for copyright protection?

Copyrightable or Not?

This issue challenges the conventional understanding of copyright, which typically protects well-defined and expressed characters.

Unseen characters might be crucial to the narrative, influencing the story's direction without being physically present.

They could exist in the backstory, as hypothetical entities, or as elements intentionally left to the audience's imagination.

The debate involves determining whether the mere conceptualization or suggestion of a character, even without a detailed portrayal, warrants copyright protection.

It delves into the balance between encouraging creative freedom and ensuring that creators receive due recognition and control over elements integral to their works, even if those elements are intentionally left in the shadows.

What's your opinion? Should unseen fictional characters be protected by copyright law?