As far as copyright law goes, 50 Shades of Grey probably doesn’t infringe on Twilight. The copyright holders are not taking action for infringement at any rate, and the opinions of the rest of the public don’t matter much.
Let’s be honest. As writers, we get inspiration from all sorts of places. Sometimes, we even find it within other authors’ works. It’s all part of the process. The line between inspiration and intellectual theft can be a hazy one. Most of us, I believe, know instinctively where that line lies and take great efforts to never cross it. It all goes back to the Golden Rule. We treat others as we would like to be treated. We would never lift someone’s work, because we don’t want anyone lifting ours.
Though I like to believe that all authors live by this rule, it’s hard to know how many of those authors cross the line. The world is full of books. I’m sure at least a few of them have a stolen character or line shoved in. 50 Shades of Grey is also not the only highly-successful novel that has been accused of borrowing major plot points from other works lately, so it’s difficult to know what is intentional and what is coincidence.
The thing that sets 50 Shades of Grey apart from these other accused books seems to be one thing and one thing only – people were already aware that the novel was inspired by Twilight. With that in mind, all that they could see were the similarities, which may in fact be many. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter much at this point.
Here’s what I do wonder, though –
Would 50 Shades of Grey have reached such peaks of success without its Twilight ties? Everyone talks about the sex, but were those initial buyers in it for the steaminess or in it for its affiliations? After all, fan sites are posting snippets of the books onto images of the actors from the Twilight movies and billing those images as “Christian” and “Anastasia,” the leading characters from 50 Shades. Clearly, some fans just wanted another, more adult, take on Edward and Bella.
That still doesn’t put E.L. James in the wrong. After all, we all puts faces to the characters in the novels that we read. The faces that fans are putting to 50 Shades of Grey‘s characters just happen to be the same famous faces of the Twilight‘s franchise.
It does make one wonder, though, if the Grey series could have ever stood on its own two feet. Did it have any shot at success on its own merits?
We’ll never know.