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  1. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Question about Copyright.

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by cutecat22, Feb 20, 2014.

    Hi All, I have a question about copyright and I'm not sure how to proceed. This came up in my first fiction (I had to write off to a record producer for permission to use lyrics but they never got back to me so I worked around it a different way) but on this occasion, I want to include a conversation between two of my characters that makes reference to a character from another fiction book. The title of the other book and it's author are not mentioned.

    So, do I have to get permission from the author of the book that concerns the character my characters are talking about or not?

    Thanks in advance, x
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Based on what you said, no. You can reference another work. You just can't use lines verbatim. You could even reference the title, if you want.
     
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  3. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I wouldn't be copying anything from the other person's book, it would be very much one character saying "you are like ......." and the other one asking who ....... is.

    So if I wanted to stick with this, I would have to get the author's permission? (or find a workaround)
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    No. See Chicagoliz's response above.
     
  5. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That's a bit sad as it was a particularly good bit that went down well with my bouncers (I have a couple of people who I 'bounce' my ideas off) so I guess I will have to find a workaround as it would be a shame to have to dump the whole section.
     
  6. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What's so sad? As I understand it shadowwalker and chicagoliz said that your characters can talk about it as long as you don't quote anything directly from the book. Just talking about it should not be a problem and you don't have to ask for permission.

    If I understand it correctly having something like this shouldn't cause any trouble:
    "You're just like [character from a book]!"
    "Who's that?"
    "You know, that boy in [book title], the fat and clumsy one that is the main characters best friend?"
    "Hey, I'm not clumsy!"
     
  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I must have misread as I read their answers as "no you can't do that".

    Yes, what you wrote is just about what's said, there's a little more, but no, the title and author are not mentioned.

    x
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    But, you can even mention the title --

    "I can't take it anymore -- everyone is just so phony!" Peter exclaimed.
    "Oh, you're a regular Holden Caufield, huh?" I replied.
    "Who?"
    "Holden Caufield -- you know, from The Catcher in the Rye?"
    Peter shook his head.
    "Oh, come on -- you've never heard of J.D. Salinger?"
    "The only Salingers I know are from that television show, Party of Five."

    That's all fine.

    (My answer of "No" was as in "No, you don't need to get permission.")
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2014
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  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Even a small quote from the text is arguably a Fair Use, though that's small comfort if the rights holder tried to come after you.
     
  10. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That's more like what I have except rather than the title and author, my characters have a discussion about why one of them is like the character in question. (nothing nasty or disrespectful).

    Should I approach the author/publisher in question just to be 'on the safe side'?
    x
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't. It sounds to me like what you're doing is within what is allowed by law, and if you approach them and they tell you no, then it raises other potential issues if you decide to go forward. You may not even get a response - how long are you planning to wait for one? Personally, I don't think what you've proposed is problematic. What law do you think you would be violating by two characters discussing why one of them is like another character in a book they've read?
     
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  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Check out the US Copyright Office site, particularly this page:

    http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

    You're probably looking at #3.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, you don't look at the factors individually. None of the Fair use factors is dispositive in and of itself, and you have to consider all four of them. In this case, 1 and 2 probably go slightly against Fair Use, but I think 3 and 4 go more strongly in the other direction.

    Of course, this is U.S. law, and I just realized the OP is in the UK.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm fuzzy on this, so maybe someone else can clear it up, but isn't there some international standard/agreement regarding copyright, kinda like the Geneva Convention of authorship? Or does that allow for some tweaking by individual countries?
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's the Berne Convention. What it really does, in addition to establishing certain bare requirements for copyright protection recognized by all signatories, is say that signatories have to recognize the rights of authors in other signatory countries in the same way they recognize authors in their own country. So we have to treat a UK copyright holder the same in the U.S. as we treat U.S. copyright holders, and vice versa. Fair Use differs within each country, and I'm not sure if the UK is more permissive.

    The Berne Convention doesn't even require Fair Use, as I recall, but just says that a country can have fair use laws if they want*

    *been a while since I looked at it, though.
     
  16. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Your question's been answered, but that aside, you need to take into account that some good portion of the people who will read the book never heard of, or don't remember either the book or the character. Or, they readand hated the book, so won't get the impression/effect you were hoping for. Mentioning books, film, and music is always iffy for that reason.
     
  17. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    As stated, but paraphrased for brevity, referencing is fine, quoting is not (unless cited).
     
  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Thanks for all your replies. As I explained to one of my bouncers, if my character was to be watching TV and commented "That Homer guy, he cracks me up." I wouldn't have to get permission from the producers of The Simpsons so I too, can't see how my little piece is any different.

    Saying that, the other author will have an arsenal of very expensive lawyers in very expensive suits at their beck and call whereas I don't. I don't even have cheap ones! I'm flying by the seat of my pants and just don't want to get hurt. I'm also a little bit of a stubborn mule ...
     
  19. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I was, however, very successful in obtaining permission from a composer to use a piece of his music in my first book. We talked about how the music was going to be used and I forwarded him the relevant snippets. He was pleased as punch and gave me the go ahead. I've since been back in touch with him and he's now more than happy for me to use his next piece in my next book so it's not all doom and gloom. :-D
     
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  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is great - but unless you're going to use pieces of these other works in your book (as you did this music), rather than just mentioning elements from them, you don't need permission from anyone. Seriously. Look at all the trademarked names and copyrighted material that gets mentioned in other novels. Do you really think the authors/publishers got permission for every single mention? Absolutely not.

    If you're that worried about it, contact an attorney who deals with copyright.
     
  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    ooops, pressed something there, not sure what ...

    Contacting a copyright lawyer was my next port of call. I know what you mean, I just don't fancy getting caught up in a legal battle and so I'm pre-empting any problems. After all, ignorance is no excuse.

    On the permission for the music from the composer, I did it out of politeness, plus, he advertises my book as containing references to his music and I advertise his music as part of my book. As a local (Yorkshire based) young composer trying to make it in the world of music, he sees it as an added bonus to his CV.
     
  23. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For such occasions there is a little "edit" button underneath your post, to the left. ;)
     
  24. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Thanks for that! :-D I will get the hang of this. It was like one of those comedy moments where the lappy does something and you just sit there shouting "NO, No that's not what I wanted you to do!"
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how could you use any of his 'music' in your ms?... did you actually include the notes, or what?
     

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