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I am writing a pilot for a TV Series, and wondered if it may be legally possible to write in a character from another (relative) series?

This isn't it, but for example:

If I was to write about an Agatha Christie character who knew Miss Marple, and references were verbally made to her, could Julia McKenzie legally appear in an episode of mine, AS Miss Marple? And how would I go about getting the permission to use that visually conceived adaptation of her from ITV/Production Company (and of course with Ms McKenzie's approval too of course)?

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    You may be better off on the legal site, Law. From the little I understand, the production company owns the character and generally holds the (sole) rights to that character's presentation... so, in this case, assuming the character isn't in the public domain... your ability to use the character at all will be dependent on who (if anyone) holds the rights. – Catija Jan 16 '16 at 18:49
  • You may find my answer here useful. – Catija Jan 16 '16 at 21:26
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Yes, yes and no.

Yes, you're allowed to include passing mentions of a character as long as that person isn't substantially described or portrayed. For example, if I said (in the script) that someone was a "bit of a Miss Marple" (e.g., an amateur sleuth), I wouldn't need to pay a fee.

Yes, you can use the character in parody. The entire premise of the "Scary Movie" series of films is that characters are presented in a comedic context, without the need to pay the rights-holder or seek their permission (although I suspect that permission was sought anyway, in order to avoid legal challenges).

No, you can't use a character that is presently copyrighted. Introducing a character as "Miss Marple" and then having her, even as a background character, solving crimes and speaking to the main cast would almost certainly fall foul of the Copyright Act. If you want to use an existing character in your own work, you'll need to speak to the rights-holder, in this case Agatha Christie Limited

  • One point that the OP is specifically discussing that your answer doesn't really address is the use of a particular version of a character... this would require two levels of clearance, since you're using both a copyrighted character and a specific representation of that copyright. – Catija Jan 16 '16 at 21:25
  • @Catija - Hmm. Yes. This would especially apply if the character was specifically intended to be the same person, from the other show. For example, I can portray Dorothy without the need to secure rights, but I can't portray her as having ruby slippers without seeking permission from MGM. – user7812 Jan 16 '16 at 21:29
  • Particularly problematic if you're Judy Garland. ;) – Catija Jan 16 '16 at 21:30
  • @Catija - I can assure you that I'm not. – user7812 Jan 16 '16 at 21:32
  • Sure... I was mostly implying that Julia McKenzie is ITV's Miss Marple in the same way that Judy Garland is MGM's Dorthy Gale. – Catija Jan 16 '16 at 21:34

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