1. stewiec

    stewiec New Member

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    Permissions in writing

    Discussion in 'Research' started by stewiec, Feb 23, 2018.

    Hi all, im new to this so be gentle lol

    All i'm looking to know is one thing. Im writing a book about a topic that one character uses a social media platform on a regular basis which turns in to a problem. Im just wondering if im free to write it or if i need permission from them to mention them
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You don’t need permission to mention it, as a general rule. If you were putting the name in your title or something, you’d have more of an issue. Also, if you’re disparaging the social network or casting it in a bad light, there is some potential for trouble and it is better just to make something up.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
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  3. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I'm with @Steerpike on this one - if the social media is - in the long run - going to be the cause of the problem, or have a negative affect on the story, then make one up.

    You see this a lot in shows like CSI et-al, they will be looking at something that looks like a person's facebook page but it will be called something else, like Facepage, or Lookbook.

    In your case, I'd err on the side of caution and make one up.
     
  4. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Permissions aside, mentioning specific social media platforms can very easily date your writing. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing, but I'd have trouble taking a story seriously if it was was trying to be current but was set entirely within the world of Plurk or Friendster.
     
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  5. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    As already mentioned I would probably make up some new name for a, kind of, copy of the social media in question rather than risk getting dragged down by a potentially angry company over your potrayal of them.
     
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  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Have them set up a Facepalm account. :)
     
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  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I have the opposite opinion of everyone here. I say go ahead and use it. Use it however you want. Name it. You really aren't going to get in trouble for this. Newer writers seem to wonder this all the time. And this is something I do all the time in my writing. It's never once been questioned or brought up as an issue by an editor. I like putting real things, places and people in my stories. I think it can put a little more life into your fiction.
     
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  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I think this is generally true, as I said above. If you use it in a title, it's more likely to cause you trouble. Also, if you disparage a brand, particularly of an entity with money and that is likely to be litigious, you'll have trouble. If you wrote an entire novel around the evils and depravities of a theme park, and named it Disney World, there's a very good chance you'd end up in litigation. It's not likely that a publisher would let that through without a second thought, either.
     
  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    This is not true at all in my experience. At all!
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Past experience doesn't amount for much when you're facing a lawsuit from Disney or Warner Bros. that even if you win is going to cost you a lot of money. These companies are litigious.

    If you want to look at a case in point from the motion picture industry, perhaps one of the more famous one is the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders case against use of their trademark (cheer-leading uniforms) in Debbie Does Dallas. The cheerleaders won an injunction in the trial court, and the appeals court also sided with them. Even if the filmmakers had won, in today's dollars they'd have gone into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    I don't know where you're getting your information from, but it's off base and I don't think I'd use anecdotal experience as a barometer for whether you could be on the hook for trademark dilution (which can be a powerful claim for the owner of a famous trademark)
     
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  11. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Hmm... See I think your information is way off base. A cheerleading uniform in a movie is quite different than writing a murder mystery that takes place on the Dumbo ride at Disney World. I've used real things in my fiction. And I've studied fiction (MFA), which was a great place to find out this sort of thing. And the publishing world from what I've seen does seem to follow suit with what I've been told. Seriously, no one is going to sue you for this. Well, I guess there is always a chance of being sued by anyone for anything. But it's not something I worry about at all.
     
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You've misread the thread. As I stated, I think quite clearly in my initial post, as a general rule using a brand, real place, or what have you, in fiction is fine. However, if you're using it in a title, you have a potential trademark problem. Also, if you're using it in a way that disparages a brand, then you also have a potential trademark problem. If your opinion is contrary to these, then you don't know what you're talking about.

    However, it is equally likely that you're simply misunderstanding. Your example of having a mystery take place on a Dumbo ride, as you've stated it, doesn't fall into any of the above categories where you have to be careful, so it therefore falls under the general rule of being fine.

    If your story was about employees at Disney World purposely sabotaging rides or otherwise using them to kill park goers, then you'd be a lot more likely to run into problems, particularly given how vigorously Disney enforces its trademark rights.

    I don't know what publishers you've dealt with, but if you're using a mark prominently, like in my example, the publisher's legal department is likely to be asked to clear it. This isn't uncommon. In the film and television industries, they're probably a bit more cautious about it, at least in my experience (or maybe just because I've dealt with more of those cases), but book publishers will consider this as well, and decide whether they want to take on the risk of litigation.
     
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  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Maybe you've just been lucky, @deadrats . @Steerpike is right about this. Companies like Disney and WB don't play. Do a trial subscription to an intellectual property law email newsletter, and your head will swim as you read listing after listing of new and ongoing cases, most of which the public never hears about. (Not an attorney, but work with this stuff as part of the day gig.)
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I've had multiple dealings with Disney, Sony, Warner Bros. and others. Sometimes on the side of those entities themselves. Sometimes on the side of people who have run afoul of them. I've seen them come after people who aren't doing any harm, and in cases where the larger entity probably wouldn't even win the case in the long run. They use their size and money to force the smaller entities to cooperate. In a case where you really are diluting their trademark (through tarnishment, for example) they're not only likely to come after you, but also to win. If such a case were to go all the way to trial, you'd be looking at around $500K in costs and fees. That's one reason big publishers, studios, and the like want to clear that stuff before hand if it raises a flag. Another reason, in my view, is that these big publishing entities, studios, etc. also have their own trademark portfolios to protect and don't really want to push the boundaries of what people can get away with using their marks.
     
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  15. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, I have a difference of opinion on how this all works in the publishing world. I mentioned where my experience comes from (publishing works and studying writing). I didn't ask you where your info comes from even though I disagree with you. I've been told differently and had a completely different experience with this. That doesn't make me wrong. I may be the odd man out here, but I know enough about this for me. And I trust the publishers I've worked with and the writing processors I've had and the writing mentors I've had. I thought it was important to say how things have worked from my point of view and experience. I don't think I've been lucky. I take this very seriously. And just because you think I'm wrong, it doesn't mean I am.
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I'm more concerned about others seeing this thread and thinking you're right.
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Are you saying that you believe that there is NO risk?

    Let's imagine that you write a murder mystery about Disney being ridded with evil, title it "The Truth About Disney" and publish it. Are you saying that you'd be totally fine?

    If not, what are you saying? If you're just saying that it's fine for your characters to go to Disneyland and for you to call it Disneyland rather than Generic Theme Park, I'm pretty sure that no one is disagreeing with that.
     
  18. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I could say the same thing.
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You could, we've established you don't have an aversion to being wrong :D
     
  20. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    It's always been my understanding that if a company wants to come after you for almost anything involving the use of their products, they can. It doesn't necessarily mean they're within their lawful rights to come at you, but big companies can bully little guys because that's how it is. If you show a character drinking a Coke or something, even if they say "Wow, I sure love Coca-Cola, it's great stuff!", Coke could come after you if they wanted. If your character bludgeons someone to death with a bottle of Coke, that'd just be inviting a response from Coca-Cola.

    It does make a degree of sense if you think about it. Coke doesn't know you or who you are, do they want you (in even a small degree) representing or being associated with their soft drink? What if you write a book where a main character loves Coca-Cola and even though the book itself is completely innocent and fine, you yourself happen to be a raging neo-nazi who publicly loons about neo-nazi conspiracies and ideology? Sometimes companies just want to make sure their best interests are protected, and that can mean being very defensive when it comes to who they let represent their products.

    I would imagine you may as well write whatever you want. Have your character drink a Coca-Cola or a Coke-Cola or a Fizzy-Cola or whatever you want them to drink. Have them murder someone at Disney Land or Pissbly Land. If your work gets to the stage someone is going to publish it, they'll probably decide if they're comfortable with having real names used. If they're not, you can just edit for content and "creatively" rename 'Disney' into 'Bisney' or something.
     
  21. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    @TheRealStegblob

    Yes, big companies can come after you even when it is less than clear they’d win. When that happens, there is a frank conversation around the questions 1) can I win; and 2) can I afford to win? The answer to those two questions isn’t always the same.
     
  22. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yep. I use brand names quite a bit in the one YA work I'm in the middle of. As a general rule it is not an issue, but it can become an issue in examples like the one you gave.
     
  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Here's a question for Deadrats - if Steerpike is wrong (he isnt btw) why for example when Luke Delaney wrote the Jackdaw (which is about a vigilante posting murders on line ) did he name the video platform 'Yourview' instead of 'Youtube' ?

    I'd speculate that either he or his publisher felt that there was some chance of youtube not taking the portrayal kindly
     
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  24. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    Well now, that's really just speculation. I've seen novels namedrop YouTube before, including one where terrorists were uploading propaganda and execution videos to it. YouTube is a pretty bad example to use because it's namedropped all the time in shows, movies, books, comics, etc.
     
  25. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    And part of that consideration is that the mark is likely famous and Google has enough money to make your life miserable, even if your use is relatively low risk.
     

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