1. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    mentioning Disney characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by XLadyX, Nov 28, 2014.

    I know Disney has copyright things about mentioning the actual location and place, but is it okay to mention Disney characters? Like I want to say when I describe what this one girl looks like, I want to say she looks like Shrek. Is that allowed? Do you mention Disney characters in your stories?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not a lawyer.

    From what I've read about copyright and trademark, I doubt that Disney could WIN a copyright or trademark suit in this situation if you fought one to the end.

    I doubt that there are many people that can afford to fight a copyright or trademark lawsuit to the end, if Disney is their opponent, so whether you win might be irrelevant. The first few hours with your lawyer would probably cost more than you'd ever earn from the fictional work.

    So my conclusion would be to abandon the idea, unless it was essential to the core purpose of the story.
     
  3. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    I really don't want to risk it. I guess maybe I can change it to she really does look like a grunting troll under the bridge then, I suppose, but Shrek literally describes this girl I know to a tee, hehe.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thing to keep in mind is that Shrek may or may not produce an image in the average reader's mind a few years from now. The reference could pretty drastically date your book/story.
     
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  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ever read a book where McDonald's is mentioned, or the title of another book, or a song title? The mere mention of a copyrighted work or a trademark is not a violation. Reproducing significant parts of the work without permission, or where use of the trademark would cause confusion for consumers or dilution of the trademark, will cause you big headaches.

    http://www.copyright.gov/laws/

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/trademark_infringement
     
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  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Nick Hornby built an entire novel around song titles in Hi Fidelity.

    @ChickenFreak's observation about a pop culture reference dating your work is true, but remember that can cut both ways. A contemporary reference can cement a scene in time and place, providing the reader gets the reference (and even if (s)he doesn't fully understand the reference, it can lend an air of authenticity). That said, I think that relying on a reference to someone else's character to describe yours is weak writing. Much better to develop your own character, independent of what anyone else has done.
     
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  7. Lemon flavoured
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    Lemon flavoured Active Member

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    I'm not lawyer, but I don't think anyone with any amount of sense* would say that comparing a character to Shrek was a copyright violation.

    *I make no claims that Disney's lawyers have any amount of sense...
     
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  8. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Probably doesn't make much difference to the answers, but isn't Shrek owned by Dreamworks rather than Disney?
     
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  9. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you do go with the comparison, I would recommend that you 1) make it clear that one character - rather than the narration - is making the comparison between Shrek and the other character, and 2) establish the first character as a Disney fan even before s/he uses Shrek to describe the other character.
     
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  10. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    I've thought of other words to replace Shrek, just to be on the safe side. If I called her someone who looks like an ogre would that be better?
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's fine to mention Shrek, in this way, but my concern is more along the lines of Ed's -- is this mention as part of a conversation, where one character says to another that a third character looks like Shrek or that she looks like Shrek? Or is it in the narrative, where you the author are trying to convey that the character looks like Shrek? Those are slightly different, and in the former, it's fine, but in the latter, it's weak writing.
     
  12. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    It's kind of both. I narrate like I'm talking to someone. It's a monologue, I guess.
     
  13. Karwedsky
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    Karwedsky Member

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    I would think it would probably be ok, because it is just a pop-culture reference, but I would think that in 10-20 years the reference may be lost on readers who may not have any idea what Shrek looked like.

    It would probably be better if you just described what it is about Shrek that your character looks like (ogre, green, etc) instead of specifically naming Shrek as a reference.
     
  14. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    I don't think its a violation, and you should be okay. Also telling a girl she looks like Shrek, harsh.
    Just ask Kermit the frog its okay being green.
     
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  15. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    Hahaha, she really does look like Shrek, though. I hate her because she walks around like her crap doesn't stink and I'm like has she looked in the mirror? I'm pretty sure I look a gazillion times better than her but I don't walk around with my head held high the way she does acting like she's invincible.
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you talking about a real person or a character in your story?
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I was wondering. Personally, I'd steer clear of that sort of self-insertion in fiction, and wouldn't do it at all if non-fiction.
     
  18. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    If you have to ask it probably isn't a good idea to do it. Besides it's much more clever and fun to describe your character in your own words than relating your character to a already pre-existing character. Of course I'm no expert on the topic, so don't take my word for it.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Whether you actually want to do it may depend on the genre. YA/Teen books often reference contemporary pop culture - movies, music, fashion, and so on. As a general rule, making a pop culture reference like this won't be an infringement of intellectual property rights.
     
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  20. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    She is based off of a real character in a non-fiction story.

    I'd like to sometimes mention things to make the book dated to the current times, too, but I wasn't sure how far I can go with that. Song titles are allowed, that I know, but anything other than that, I'm not sure if I can mention a celebrity. I do know I really can't mention anything bad about a celebrity using their real names, though. I've read a couple of books where they have mentioned actual celebrity names, but they are more known and have a large fan base, I'm barely known and I thought there was some rule you can't use celebrity real names unless you are very known or something.
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Be aware that not everyone knows Shrek. Admittedly you're probably writing to the English-speaking world, in which case it is highly likely for them to know. But if you're not writing in English, then I'd not use Shrek as a reference at all.

    Right now it's sorta sounding like you just really want to insult this person in real life and you're taking your revenge by fictionalising the person and then describing her meanly... Again, be careful you don't insert too many references that could lead anyone to believe you're talking about a real person, or they could sue you for libel. I don't think it's only the famous you need to worry about.

    And if you're hoping to create a good, 3-dimensional character, I suggest you start trying to understand this "Shrek" character's motivations and backstory. Right now it sounds like you hate her. As the author, you must understand all your characters, even the hate-worthy ones. Unless she's a cardboard villain and that's the kinda story you want, I'd think twice.
     
  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    :confused::confused:
    Meaning this is a real person, correct? Is this someone you know?
     
  23. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    Yeah, this is a real person I know. I don't hide the fact that my characters are based off of my favorite people and least favorite. The people who I hate don't read my books and since I don't use their real names they can deny everything. They're the type to not admit it's them (because they're prideful like that) so I would think I won't have any problems with getting sued unless I become a best seller and they want to profit. I'm sure they wouldn't want to sue me because I'll just write a second book about that saying after they have been embarrassed in the public eye, instead of asking for forgiveness, they still want to continue to be the bad person(s) that they are which in turn to me says I hope I can't be sued for telling the truth. All the events I list are all truth so when the judge sees that I hope he will throw the case out if it ever comes that far. I used to type the story in a blog like form, but now after rereading some things, I do realize I need some development. I simply go right into bashing them. I just noticed that, lol.
     
  24. XLadyX
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    XLadyX Banned

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    If I change their personalities and characteristics but leave the history the same, can I do that?
     
  25. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yikes:eek:. Um, if you feel you've been wronged, remember that sometimes the best revenge is living well.
     
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