1. CrystalWriter
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    CrystalWriter Member

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    Using real life places/shops

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CrystalWriter, Nov 26, 2011.

    Can you in novels, use places/services such as

    costas for a location rather than a coffee shop
    borders/waterstone instead of a bookstore

    charities or names of services

    facebook and/or twitter

    Or will these be protected by copyright and trademark,

    Or would it be a much better idea to come up with my own names for these places
     
  2. FoxPaw
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    FoxPaw Senior Member

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    I'm sorry I don't have an answer for you, but I'm posting here to both follow this thread and to add a part to it. I'm hoping that's alright?

    Along with the things listed above, I'm wondering if it's okay to use copyrighted song.
    An example would be a character in a story starts to sing a song from... I dunno, Jason Mraz? Jimi Hendrix? Elvis? The Chordettes? The Beatles? (I'm singers/bands from different eras, wondering if the answer also might have to do with the time things get copyrighted.)
     
  3. Jethelin
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    Jethelin Member

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    I'm reading a book where the character mentions real life books sitting in his room. Probably kind of the same principle for songs. I'm not sure about places though. I feel as if I've read a book that had real life places in it, but it's late here and I'm having trouble remembering specifics.
     
  4. Kube
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    Kube Member

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    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think most businesses have a problem with you using their company name in a book as long as you aren't portraying them in a bad light. I've read several books written from all time periods that use real business and product names. It seems that you have a bit more leeway in a book than you do in a movie. For example, in Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson uses several real businesses such as hotels that were changed for the movie. What was Circus Circus in the book became the Bazooko Brothers Circus in the movie. Of course the book was published in the early seventies and the movie came out in 1998. Not to mention the fact that the book was a somewhat fictionalized account of an actual event so I don't know if that plays into it. Still, I wouldn't worry about it. Write it the way you want and if it's an issue, worry about it when you're working with your editor. He/she will have a better idea and a business/product name is easily changed.

    I think song lyrics are an entirely different animal altogether. Musicians are notoriously picky about when and where their song is used so I would tread lightly when it comes to using them in your book. I'd at least try to stick with songs written by people that have passed on. They will probably still be owned by someone but if it isn't the person that wrote them, they may not be quite so protective. A good question to ask yourself is, are the lyrics important to the story, or can you still get the point across with a more vague description like, "He was singing one of those songs the local pop station insisted on playing incessantly."
     
  5. CrystalWriter
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    CrystalWriter Member

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    Thanks for the advice, I guess the thing to do is wait to see if a publisher accepts it, then ask. It wouldn't hurt to change a name at that stage, especially if still in finished draft form
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    of course you can... it's done all the time... the only time you might have a problem is if you write anything derogatory about the place...
     
  7. FoxPaw
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    FoxPaw Senior Member

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    Thanks for answering, Jethelin and Kube. Yeah, now that I think about it, the song isn't really necessary and I can put something else more vague in its place. And thanks, Crystal, for letting me tag onto your board. =)
     
  8. Kube
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    Kube Member

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    One other thing I wanted to mention. You'll have to decide whether it's important to you or not but here goes. When using names of stores/products or music, remember that this can date your piece. While a certain restaurant may be popular now, there is a possibility it could go under. In which case, a reader in the future might think to him/herself "Hey, that place hasn't been around in twenty years." This being said, it's almost impossible to avoid dating your work to some extent, especially where technology is concerned. Many classic plot devices involved someone waiting by the phone for a call. In the age of cell phones, this is no longer a problem. Dating a piece means very little to some writers but is very important to others. I just throw it out there as something to keep in mind.
     
  9. CrystalWriter
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    CrystalWriter Member

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    Luckily most of the places are either fav haunts, a necessary for looking up for information. So nothing derogatory about the places.
    Dating the work, is gonna be picked up as one of the plot lines, involves an act which has been passed in parliment a couple of years ago.
     
  10. CrystalWriter
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    CrystalWriter Member

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    Luckily most of the places are either fav haunts, a necessary for looking up for information. So nothing derogatory about the places.
    Dating the work, is gonna be picked up as one of the plot lines, involves an act which has been passed in parliment a couple of years ago.
     
  11. mickelarr
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    mickelarr New Member

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    My rule of thumb is to avoid mentioning other people's businesses. If you're talking about Coke or Disneyland (or Twitter as you said) or something that's different, but if you're talking about the little cafe around the corner you might be better off creating a fictional place based on that establishment. Even if you think you're being nice, you never know how someone is going to take it. We writers need as many friends as we can manage, and there's no point alienating people. Unless you're the kind of writer who likes to stir things up. :)

    As for song lyrics: Understand that lyrics are copyrighted material. Most songs are owned by someone, and you could get yourself in a heap of legal trouble if you use them without permission. I personally would steer away from using lyrics unless I had a publisher with a good legal department to sort it out for me(which I don't).
     
  12. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    It's also my understanding that you can use business names etc. as long as you don't portray them in any negative light. Many books I've read describe characters eating at existing restaurants, visiting people at existing hospitals, etc.

    I've read (on this forum, I think) that it's okay to mention the name of a song and its artist but it's not okay to use lyrics without permission. I've also read books that include characters referencing songs.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless there's a reason to use a specific real world brand, or the brand is so dominant that ignoring it would be distractingly obvious, in my work I'd prefer to create a specific fictional world brand. (The Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters comes to mind.) I probably wouldn't come up with a fictional replacement for Facebook or Twitter or Google, but I would replace, say, a small local restaurant chain with a fictional chain. And if a lot of events needed to happen in a coffee shop, I would probably create my own, though there might be side mentions of Starbuck's as a competitor to that coffee shop.

    I'd do this to maximize my freedom - if I suddenly want to have someone find a rat in the coffeehouse kitchen, say, then I can do so because the coffeehouse is my own creation and I'm not harming any party with that plot twist. I also don't have to do a lot of research about trivial details ("They don't _do_ the pumpkin cinnamon frappucino in Grande!"); I can make them up instead.

    ChickenFreak
     
  14. Gracia Bee
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    Gracia Bee Member

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    Maybe you could describe it like that place but tweak it a little. Change the name, the colour, the furniture, whatever.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re song lyrics, it's true that lines from the songs shouldn't be used without permission, though titles are ok... as for the copyright holders being dead, they have to be dead for at least 70 years before the song enters the public domain... the same rule that applies to other written works...

    any aspiring writer who's not sure of these details should acquaint themselves with the copyright laws... for the us, they're made clear here: www.uspto.gov and www.copyright.gov

    someone in the uk can provide their equivalent, but the laws are essentially the same for any other signatory to the berne convention...
     

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