1. Andrew Waterhouse
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    Andrew Waterhouse Member

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    Using Business Names in Books

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Andrew Waterhouse, Jun 12, 2016.

    So long story short, I'm in the process of writing a book about summer camp. I'd like to know what the procedure is on checking if businesses are happy for their name to be used in the book? I'm happy to provide them with an overview of the book and make sure there is nothing defamatory for their name. But what if they return to the email and say 'no'? Would it be (by law), ok for me to replace their name with a fictitious one that couldn't be traced back to them?
    This is just one of my burning questions to get answered!
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You don't generally need permission to use a business name in a book (though if they think you're defaming the business somehow they could make some trouble).

    If you think about it, what law would you be violating using their name in a non-defamatory manner?
     
  3. Andrew Waterhouse
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    Andrew Waterhouse Member

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    I'm unsure, but would think that I'd need to ask the summer camp itself if it is OK and if it is ok to use a summer camp agencies name in the book too. I thought this is the general procedure for media?
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No, I don't think you need (as in, are legally required) to ask permission. In a case like this, though, I'd just make up a name for the summer camp. If it is that significant to your story, I don't know that I'd use the real name. Also, keep in mind that even if you're in the right, it can be expensive to defend a lawsuit if the company doesn't like what you did and comes after you.

    If you're going the traditional publishing route, they should handle this sort of thing for you, and I suspect they'll want it changed.
     
  5. Andrew Waterhouse
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    Andrew Waterhouse Member

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    Thanks for your advice. So would it be wise to run it by them first, see if they're ok with real name? If they aren't, then I could go with the fake name route...?
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Unless there is a good reason to use the real name, I wouldn't even bother. Just invent a fictional camp that draws on the real thing.
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is what I'd do.
     
  8. Andrew Waterhouse
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    Andrew Waterhouse Member

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    That's a shame to hear because I feel it would add a degree of realism to it all. Particularly mentioning the agency, Camp America which has become synonymous with what this book is all about. Thoughts?
    Would running it by them potentially cause more harm than good?
     
  9. Rob40
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    Rob40 Active Member

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    Book: Neuromancer. One of the first techno hacking books out there used all kinds of company names but used them as just things they used. Products without impact to story.
     
  10. Andrew Waterhouse
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    So if I were to use company names without slandering/giving them a bad name and only in passing, then it's ok? I may run it by both the agency and the camp itself just to remain professional... Would that just open the floodgates though..?
     
  11. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    My novel includes the names of several well-known restaurants and chefs, and my publisher did not ask me to change any of them to fictitious ones.
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. As noted above, you don't need permission to mention business names in a novel.
     
  13. Andrew Waterhouse
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    Andrew Waterhouse Member

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    This isn't a novel though, it's a non-fiction diary of my experience in the camp...
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That could change things somewhat, particularly if you are defaming the business in some way. Of course, to the extent the book is a truthful telling of what you experienced at camp, you also have strong first amendment protections (in the U.S.).
     
  15. Andrew Waterhouse
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    Precisely, which is why I find myself here! So what options could I explore? I have a gut feeling I should give them the heads up, see what they think... Though what could I do if they decline? I'm not a US citizen but there isn't much they could call slander in the book.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    On the one hand, if you ask for permission and receive it, then you're in pretty good shape. What's the chance the book gets on their radar if you don't ask permission? Because if they decline and you're planning on moving forward anywhere, then all you've done is made them aware of you. Under U.S. law, truth is an absolute defense to defamation. I don't know how it works out where you are, but even if you have a good defense to any defamation charge it is still expensive if the company says "We will see you in court."

    Myself, I'd be inclined to just write it. But it comes down to how much risk you're comfortable with.
     
  17. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    Hey, just to throw my hat in the ring. I am currently read the Jack Reacher series and I noticed what Lee Child does is rather than mentioning business by names he describes briefly what the business logo is. So for an example instead of saying he went to Starbucks he would say things like
    "The coffee shop was a national chain, people were sat at tables working on their laptops. The sign above the door had a mermaid type woman in a green circle"
    I'm not taking a direct quote there just an abstract example.
     

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