1. Michael Fairbanks
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    Michael Fairbanks New Member

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    Am I in violation of trademark or copyright using a TV title in my book title?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Michael Fairbanks, Jul 8, 2016.

    I'm more than half-way through my book. The current working title is Dead Fan: How I Became the Most Hated Walking Dead Fan in America.

    It's nonfiction and mostly a memoire type of book-- narrative nonfiction.

    A friend told me that AMC (the network that produces The Walking Dead) might take issue with the use of their show in my book's title. Her comment gave me concern, as I obviously don't want to get in trouble, and I really don't want to change the title. It's very fundamental to the entire book.

    Book Summary: I am a freelance writer/photographer who photographed all but a few of the actors from The Walking Dead, and have dozens of stories of fan-to-fan conflict, actor-to-fan conflict, and conflict between various fan groups on social media and other online outlets. Follow me as I went from one of the biggest, most successful fan photographers to the most hated fan in America. Hundreds of photos of the actors and film locations included.

    Any thoughts about whether my book's title will get me in any kind of trouble? Thanks
     
  2. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    From the stories I've heard in the past, you could probably at least expect the possibility of being sued... As for whether it is actually illegal or not, I don't think so. I've seen many titles in books that have had copyrighted IP's in the title, without it being an issue. AMC can't really own the words "walking" and "dead", and since you don't have the "The" in there, it means you aren't actually taking the full original title, which should be another point in your favor. So it would sort of be like getting sued for calling your video game "No Man's Sky" because the word "sky" - a word which has been used in titles before - was in the title of the game. And yes, that example was taken from a real case; the prosecutors lost.

    I'm from Norway so I don't know what the law says where you're from, but over here: you'd be laughed at if you tried to sue someone for titling their book like you are wishing to.
     
  3. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    You should be fine, really. And it sounds like an interesting book. People tend to think you can't write about real stuff, but you can. And this is your memoir. It's your story. I think it could do very well. Once you start working with an agent and publishers, they will let you know if there is any problem. But, honestly, I think you're okay.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There are a number of trademark registrations relating to The Walking Dead. It's not really a copyright issue, but a trademark matter. The question will be whether you are infringing the registered marks. There are certainly arguments to be made in support of your side. The problem that you run into is that many of these media companies are quite aggressive in protecting their marks, to the extent that they bring actions against third parties where infringement is really questionable. The third parties are then required to defend those lawsuits. The average trademark litigation, last I saw, cost in the neighborhood of $400,000.00.

    So, from a practical standpoint, the most important issue isn't as much whether you're violating the registered trademarks as it is whether the trademark owner thinks you're violating them, or just flat out doesn't like what you're doing, and whether you have the money to fight with them over it.
     
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  5. Michael Fairbanks
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    Michael Fairbanks New Member

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    Thanks for the responses. Keep 'em coming. I really appreciate it.

    Parts of the book might not get published (one chapter in particular) because a law firm representing AMC doesn't want me to discuss certain events, and they probably have legal standing there, so I won't rock that boat. The title worries me, among other aspects, but yeah: I definitely don't want to self-publish this book and be on my own if anything hits the fan. Nevertheless, I am crossing the t's and dotting the i's. If I can't back it up a story I won't publish it.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    How is the firm going to prevent you talking about certain events? Did you sign an NDA or something? Or is it just the threat of a costly legal battle?
     
  7. Michael Fairbanks
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    Michael Fairbanks New Member

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    I did sign an NDA that is specific to one set of events. I'm already working with their law firm to get clarification on what I can or cannot write in regard to that situation. I'll respect whatever decision they come up with. I can't afford a fight in court, and that particular chapter won't make or break the book. I'd love to write about said experience, but I have a feeling I'll be given a flat-out no.

    It's mostly the title I'm worried about. But if they insist that the name of their TV show be excluded from the title, I'll go with their request (unless I get a publisher who is willing to take on that fight). I can make a workable title.

    Another issue is my reputation, which is a double-edged sword. I have a reputation as a bit of a villain in the fandom over an event or two (nothing illegal by any means). It's a very sensitive and explosive group of fans. I always felt the reputation was undeserved and that I was simply misunderstood, but I couldn't fight against the false rumors (rumors that made their way to the actual powers that be, so to speak). I was incredibly despondent over the whole thing, and after three years I became essentially an outcast, even though I had befriended many people and took hundreds of photographs of the actors and had a lot of positive interactions with the actors.

    I was told by (I'm not willing to name them yet) to stay away from all cast and crew. My reputation grew far more sinister than is reality (which is often the case for people), and I penned a few letters in my own defense, knowing full well that I probably wouldn't be able to fix it. I've contemplated filing defamation of character lawsuits as well over what some have said online. But I don't actually like confrontation. It's very stressful for me. So I had washed my hands of the whole thing until it hit me out of the blue:

    That was my unique angle: The most hated fan. My mind jumped at the opportunity to present my case as someone who truly is hated by all, even if it's not entirely true. Why not make it a funny memoire that tells my unique tales over a three-year period?

    Then my fingers went to work. I've been consistently cranking out about five thousands words a day, sometimes more, and before I knew it I had half my book finished, not including the hundreds of photos.

    I even had a bounty of (formerly painful) hilarious quotes to fill the back cover. One of them is from a very important person in a very important organization who says, "He is his own worst enemy." There are dozens of quotes that, within the context of the book's theme, become quite humorous.

    Other quotes that will likely grace the back cover are:

    "Wannabe fake photographer to the stars."

    "I'm going to see you, so keep talking sh** on the internet."

    "What a freak!"

    And several from various actors, such as...

    "Stop the drama, Michael."

    "I am following you."

    "Nobody likes a weenie, Michael."

    and more.

    My personal favorite comes from the leader of a fan group that has almost half a million members. They wrote to me (because I'm a teacher and they likely wanted to hurt me): "The fact that you teach children is incredibly disturbing."

    That last quote stung me badly for a couple days, but that sour lemon makes really good lemonade now. I just had to change my way of thinking.

    The last chapter of the entire book is titled "Lemonade" for that very reason. It hasn't been written yet.
     

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