1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Chapter Title arrangement and copyright question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alesia, Dec 10, 2013.

    I heard once song titles are not subject to copyright, but I am curious on something regarding arranging chapter titles all named after the same bands songs. Does copyright/artist rights affect that differently? Like say I named each of my chapters after an Alice In Chains song (e.g. Ch. 1 "Killer Is Me" Ch. 2 "Down In A Hole" and so on.)
     
  2. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    This reminds me of a Fair Use type thread that turned into a nightmare. If using one from a band's titles, say "Killer Is Me," that would seem innocent, but using many or all of the titles of one band's album or albums, somehow that would seem like derivative work to me. I'm not a copyright attorney, so that's a weak opinion at best. I do understand how passion for music can inspire one's writing and other art forms.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    since song titles can't be copyrighted, i don't see how using them for chapters could make it a 'derivative work'... nor is a written work being 'derivative' illegal or actionable, as far as i know...

    that said, when in doubt, consult a literary attorney, not members of a writing site who aren't attorneys specializing in literary law...
     
  4. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    That's part of the issue: hearsay.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how is that 'hearsay'?
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    While song titles can't be copyrighted, I believe they can be trademarked (doesn't necessarily mean they are). Moreover, you are looking at using not only one song title, but several. So, @mammamaia's advice to consult with a literary attorney is sound. OTOH, if you are planning to try to publish this by traditional means, it's not something you need to worry about just yet. For one thing, even if your ms is selected for publication, there's no guarantee that your chapter titles will be used. Your editor may have other ideas. But, if it is (selected for publication) and they (the chapter titles) are retained, then you might need to consult an attorney (in fact, your editor will likely insist, or else refer to in-house counsel).
     
  7. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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  8. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, yes, but @mammamaia's advice is certainly not hearsay.
     
  10. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I had READ, on a legal site, that character names cannot be copyrighted (although a particular name might be trademarked). This is the first I've heard that song titles cannot be copyrighted. Even in the first case, I'd think it would be difficult to sue someone for naming their dog, real or literary, Scooby Doo, for example, unless they used the cartoon character itself. Another example would be calling a character in a novel "Joe Pallucka" or "Bazooka Joe," Dick Tracy or Doc Brown. If one could, I'd have an hellacious suit against SKG.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's not that Titles cannot be protected by copyright as an absolute rule. Very short phrases typically cannot be protected because they aren't considered to have sufficient "authorship" to be protected. Thus, names, titles, slogans, and the like usually get no copyright protection. I say usually because I can think of a hypothetical, such as a "title" of a book that was 500 words long, where you probably would get protection. But that's not a likely scenario, and as a general rule titles are just too short to be protected.

    Titles and character names both can be the subject of trademark protection, provided they are being used as trademarks.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    From www.copyright.gov:
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you beat me to it, cog!... was going to post a link to that, in answer to:

    drw... haven't you ever acquainted yourself with the basics of US copyright law?

    anyone wanting to see their writings published/produced certainly should... just as a mechanic should first consult the manufacturer's manual before starting to work on a type of car he hadn't worked on before [i realize that's not an exact match, but it's still somewhat relevant and it's too early in the am for me to be brilliant o_O]...
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The one catch word in that is "generally." That one word implies to me that there could be rare exceptions.

    But the gist of it is that as a rule, titles are not copyrightable. If you're afraid your case might be that rare exception, by all means consult with a literary attorney. Most attorneys will grant you a brief free consult.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes!
     
  16. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    You can do a trademark search for each song title that you're using.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why would one want to, david?... song titles are rarely, if ever trademark protected in the first place...

    and even if one you wanted to use as a title was, the trademark protected word/s can still be used, as long as it's not for a competing work of the same type, which prose would not be...
     

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