1. Slappydappy
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    Slappydappy Member

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    A question about using pop culture references in a book

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Slappydappy, Mar 4, 2012.

    I've reading Ulysses and I sorta had an idea I wanted to implement into a project I was already working on. However, this is a question I always wanted to know.

    If a character in a novel references pop culture, such as music, celebrities, books, movies, etc. How does this work? Can the book still be published? What are the laws on this?

    I know some people are going to say it's not necessary to ever do this, and if I am a good writer I won't need to do it. I don't care about that viewpoint, only the law and chances of getting the work published. Sorry if my question seems odd or doesn't make sense.
     
  2. gypsystarchild
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    gypsystarchild New Member

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    As far as copyright laws go, I really don't know the answer. I often use pop culture references in my writing, but I'm not a published writer :) What are you planning on referencing from Ulysses? Perhaps there's a way to do so indirectly. Often times it just depends on the work and how you're using it. Also, once something is out there, it's fair game. Granted, you can't just copy and paste three chapters, but ideas cannot be copyrighted. The specific way they are described, however, are. Does this help? And, if you are planning on publishing this project, your editor will know what can/cannot be reproduced.
     
  3. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    It has been discussed here:

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=50609

    lots of good insight there.

    Can the book be published? Yes, if you're referencing something as it is in real life you'll be fine. There's hundreds of examples in technicalities, but this is acceptable: 'Billy Bob was so angry that he squeezed his cup of Starbucks and didn't care as the coffee scalded his hand.'

    My advice is don't overdo it with the pop culture references.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    A title, names etc are trademarked rather than copyrighted so as long as you are not using it in a derogatory fashion is fine to mention them. By all means enjoy a Pepsi, but don't use one to poison anyone. Take a trip to Disneyland but don't rape anyone whilst you are there etc

    Lyrics and actual content are copyrighted and need to have permission to be used
     
  5. Morwen Edhelwen
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    Morwen Edhelwen Member

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    Unless they're in public domain, like Naughty Marietta. You can quote Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life! all you want.
     
  6. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Have you read the CHERUB series of books? They're chock full of pop culture references, and since I doubt that their author took the time to get permission from Disney, Pepsi, Coke, Manchester United, Arsenel, 21st Century Fox and more, I think it should be okay to reference pop culture.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Feel free to have your character light up a Marlboro, take a slug of Jack Daniels, chase it down with a Bud Light, lunch on a Big Mac with a Coke, and then chew a couple of Tums to settle his stomach. But don't suggest he got food poisoning at the Golden Arches, and that he should've known better.

    Product names aren't copyrighted. They are trademarked. You can refer to trademarked names all you want in the context of fiction, except where that use in fiction is in competition with the named product. So don't stop and have a chat with Harry Potter, because tjhat could eb considered a trademark infringement.

    As for the food poisoning aspect, that could be considered defamation, implying that eating an Mickey Dee's is risking food poisoning.

    Trademark law is quite a bit more complicated than copyright law, but you are pretty safe mentioning products by name in their normal use. You could also mention the 1982 Tylenol poisoning incidents, even though it casts the product in a negative light, because it is factual public information.
     

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