1. Fedora
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    Fedora Active Member

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    Confused about titles

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Fedora, Aug 5, 2010.

    Let's say for instance that there's a person trying to publish a short story under the name "The Veteran," but he's never heard of the Stephen Crane story of the same name. If a magazine accepted and printed our writer's "The Veteran," is that trademark infringement/copyright infringement? If it is, then how can you make a title without being sued? Aren't they all taken? And if not, what's stopping someone from stealing the title of a story that you've created and accidentally giving you bad press?

    From what I understand, you can't copyright titles, but you can trademark them. What this actually means eludes me. Does anyone here understand this?
     
  2. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Google your potential title and see what comes up. I don't believe titles can be copyrighted, and I can think of instances where two different works have the same title. I don't think you can stop someone from using a title that you have used. Cog will probably correct me, or give a more complete response.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You cannot copyright titles, so publishing a story with a title that's already in use is not illegal (though, depending on the popularity of the title, has the potential to be problematic). Trademarks usually just cover names of brands or products, and are different to copyright. Some books have trademarked titles (the Harry Potter series, for instance), but these are pretty exceptional: it's certainly not something most writers would need to do (and if you do need to do it, chances are you already have a publishing house that will take care of it all for you).
     
  4. FrankB
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    FrankB Member

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    Titles aren't copyrighted. Call it what you like. Every title submitted by an author is a working title. If the publisher wants to call it something else, they most likely will. (If they're nice guys, they'll run suggestions by you, or ask for your input on an alternate.)
     
  5. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean they sometimes change titles without asking?

    I would deplore that. The title can subtly change the underlying meaning of the whole story.
     
  6. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I would like to think that publishers have more experience in giving appropriate titles to books, keeping the underlying meaning in mind. And I think they do consult the author before the final decision.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The title is part of the marketing for a book. If a publisher decides to change the title, you will know it before the acceptance is nailed down. Generally, they know what tjey are doing.

    As for trademarks, they are not at all like copyrights. They aren't automatic, and in fact applying for a trademark does not guarantee you will get it. If it is at all generic, te application will either be denied outright, or its scope will be severely limited.

    You need not worry about it. If your title runs afoul of any trademark problems, your publisher's legal department will discover that in plenty of time. Just another benefit of traditional publishing vs self-publishing is that a traditional publisher will assist you with most legal issues (although they will usually write the contract to indemnify themselves against libel).
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1. titles cannot be copyrighted, so you can use any title you want, even if it's in use elsewhere...

    2. there are many examples of books/stories/movies having the same title, but it's not a good idea to use a title that's known to the general public already, as your work can then be confused with another's...

    3. trade names such as 'harry potter' and 'batman' and such can be registered and protected as trademarks, but titles cannot...

    for the official skinny, writers should study the rules and regs at the source:

    www.uspto.gov
    www.copyright.gov
     

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