1. Mikee
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    Mikee New Member

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    copyright questions

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Mikee, Sep 11, 2008.

    Hi everyone.

    I'm still ambitious enough to keep up the work on my vampire novel, but I have a few questions.

    Off the top of your head, without sending me to do any researching (because it's just as easy to drop the details as it is to use them) does anyone know what kind of names you can use in a novel? Such as... musical groups, foods (Oreos and such) clothing brands and so on? I'd like to know because this could really add some details into my characters, or I could always leave it vague for the reader's imagination. Sometimes it's better to allow the reader to connect their own personal interests with the characters, making them more "likeable."

    Thanks
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Any ones you want that are not trademarked. If they are trademarked, most in-passing references should not be a problem; some will even consider it free advertising. However, if you name characters or companies after real world, and use them within a plot, you run the risk of getting hit with a defamation of character lawsuit. Even if you use people who are named differently, but identifiable as people you know, you can be at risk. Even if you portray thenm in what you perceive as a positive light, they may feel otherwise.

    But it's perfectly fine to have your character light up a Camel as he steps out of his VolksWagon, and wash down some Oreos with a tumbler of Jack Daniels.

    Just don't have him get back into the VW afterwards and have it crash and explode; if there's an implication that the Jack Daniels caused him to crash, that could be a nuisance suit for disparaging their product (they'd certainly lose, though), or by VW for implying their vehicles would explode on impact.

    Even in thses cases, you wouldn't really be in much danger from a lawsuit, because I think most judges would fine the plaintiff for bringing up a frivolous lawsuit. But I was only making a point about the difference between product placement to enrich the setting vs. inclusion into the plot.

    As for trademarks, incidental use is probably ok, as long as your use of the trademark is not to material affect your book's sales. But using a trademarked character or town as a plot component (you team up with the Batman for part of your investigation) could land you in hot water. Your character could safely flip through a Batman comic in teh bookstore, though, or notice a Batman cartoon playing on the TV. This differs from the above cases in that there is no corporate entity or person known as the Batman, so he could not sue you for defamation. You could only be sued for violating the trademark.

    These are not copyright issues. Copyright only applies to copying creative product and passing it off as yoru own, in whole or in part. Single words or names are not covered under copyright, but sentences, paragraphs, and longer passages are, even if you change pieces of it to attempt to disguise it. If the origins are identifiable, you risk copyright infringement litigation. Ideas are not copyrightable, ony their specific rendition is, whether it be written text, paintings, photographs, or lyrics.

    Be particularly careful with song lyrics. The music industry is stricter than most in that regard. Song titles, however, are safe.

    But if there is any doubt, don't rely on my advice, or that of anyone else in the forum. Check with a copyright lawyer, or have your agent do so.
     
  3. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I completely agree with Cogito.

    You can also ask the citizen's advice bureau as they can give a little guidance with copyright issues too (forgive my ignorance I'm not sure if they're in the USA as well, but they are in the UK)

    So wherever you are in the world there should be someone out there to help you.
    Good luck with that Vampire novel! :)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the best place to get info in the us is the source: www.uspto.gov
     
  5. Mikee
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    Mikee New Member

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    Thank you all for the information. Cogito in particular. It's nice to have someone explain things to you without all the hassle of calling and researching things. I'm no longer worried about driving a Ferrari. It never wrecks. XP But before it's published, of course I'll have my agent (when I get one, that is) check for the copyright law just in case.

    Thanks again everyone.
     

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