1. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice

    Real World References

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by xanadu, Mar 25, 2013.

    Hey everyone, been awhile since I last posted, but I'm a bit stuck and need a few pointers.

    I know this topic comes up frequently - I've looked through some of the older ones, but none of them seem to address the issue I'm facing. I'm sure the answer will be to consult a literary attorney (though I doubt I can afford to go that route), but hopefully my questions won't be that complicated. Fingers crossed.

    Anyway, my current project is heavily focused on music, and as such there are a number of real-world references that are made. Now, I know the obvious already - not to use any copyrighted material and not to defame any actual people. That all goes without saying. In addition, any artists or people that make an appearance in the story are 100% fictional. But I know things can get a little fuzzy, so let me give a few examples of where the real-world references come into play:

    For one, my two main characters are musicians, and they frequently talk music. As in, mentioning their favorite real artists and actual concerts they've attended - bearing in mind that any actual concerts I mention really happened, and that I never mention artists that my characters "dislike." Nor do I claim any artists did anything they did not actually do. I mention my character purchasing actual albums when they were actually released, and attending concerts that actually happened, when they actually happened. I use only fictional artists when I make up concerts.

    Second, as my characters are musicians, they play songs. Some are fictional, but some are real. In this case I only ever mention the title and artist of a song they're playing, and I may talk about the song itself (as in, she expertly fretted the build-up in five-fourths time as the singer easily hit the high notes just before the chorus). I never quote lyrics.

    Finally, my main character is named after a song title, and this fact is revealed - she tells someone she meets that her father was a huge fan of the artist and couldn't resist naming her after the song. I know titles can't be copyrighted, but it's the reference being an issue that I'm concerned about. A possible remedy, if it's necessary, would be to just leave out stating that it's a reference, but that fact is an important part of her identity.

    That's about it at this point. Am I doing anything that would be problematic? I know authors make references all the time, and I hope I'm just being overly cautious and paranoid. I'd hate to have to make everything fictional, as it would take away from the setting and feel of the story. There are probably things I can do during the editing phase to remove some of them if I have to, but some will be harder to cut out than others. I'd rather not have to get rid of them if possible.

    Any help would be appreciated. Like I said, hopefully this is just something I'm overthinking, as I don't really have the cash to spare to seek legal counsel. If that's really the only solution, I'd really appreciate recommendations (websites?) on affordable ones or ones I could email/ask for free (if there are any...do I dare hold my breath?).

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Nee
    Offline

    Nee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2013
    Messages:
    713
    Likes Received:
    23
    Stephen King mentions real life bands, and songs all the time--the "fair use" clause allows for the use of song titles, band names, the names of singers or famous people in general--as long as you don't defame them. So if you were to have a character say that a particular band really sucks...it's probably better to invent that band.

    But as always...best to consult with an attorney.
     
  3. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    From what you've said, what you're doing should be fine.
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i've been mentoring writers for many years and have dealt with related legal issues for even longer than that... i'm not an attorney, but my experience/study-based opinion is that nothing you mentioned would involve a legal risk...

    and yes, whenever in doubt, it's always best to consult a literary attorney...
     
  5. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    I appreciate your responses. In that case, I won't worry too much about it at this point. I'll pay careful attention to any potential issues when I go back through on my editing phase. If I ever get it to the point where it might be ready for submission, I'll look into it further then.

    You've been a great help. Thanks everyone!
     

Share This Page