Tuesday, February 14, 2017

TIP TUESDAY: BEWARE OF USING TRADEMARKED OR COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL IN YOUR WRITING FOR PUBLICATION

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I'm sure you already know that when you write a book or story for publication that you can't "lift" the words from someone else's writing.

But what about items that are trademarked?

The Chicago Manual of Style tells us:

"Brand names that are trademarks––often so indicated in dictionaries––should be capitalized if they must be used. A better choice is to substitute a generic term with available." 

Thus, your characters should not drink a Coca-Cola or even a Coke, but they can drink cola or a soda or pop. They can make love in a whirpool bath, but not a Jacuzzi. When they get out of that tub, they can dress in jeans, but they can't put on their Levi's.

As for copyrights, watch out. Chicago states:

"Whenever a book or article, poem or lecture, database or drama comes into the world, it is automatically covered by copyright so long as it is 'fixed' in some 'tangible' form and embodies original expression. The term tangible applies to more than paper and traditional media; it includes things such as electronic memory. A copyrightable work is 'fixed' as long as it is stored in some manner that is not purely transitory. Thus an e-mail message that is stored in the sender's computer is fixed and copyrightable, but an extemporaneous lecture that is broadcast without being recorded is not."

Don't let your admiration for someone else's writing lead you to violate copyright law. Don't even use the words from someone's email improperly.

But what if your character is listening to a song on the radio that she likes and she wants to sing the lyrics? Don't use lyrics in your writing unless you have permission from the holder of the copyright or the words are in the public domain.

A way to solve the problem would be to write your own lyrics for your character to sing.

Or make up the title of a book that your character reads.

Last week, I read online that titles of books are not copyrighted. However, Chicago says titles such as Gone With The Wind and The House At Pooh Corner, in their fame, remain trademarked as long as they are copyrighted.

For more information, check out http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/titles.html.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Bad, bad sign's.
Thanks, fishducky!

23 comments:

  1. You'd think the brands would be happy with a little free advertisement, but nooo they wanna be greedy and not let you even say their names.

    Love,
    Rachel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And they do all that product placement in movies.

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  2. Hi Janie - it certainly could be a challenge ... thanks for the advice ... cheers Hilary

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    1. This information is for the U.S. Trademark and copyright law can be different in other countries.

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  3. And so the editor reading my manuscript who told me not to say "sedan", but instead to be specific with "Lexus" was in error?

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    Replies
    1. Lexus is trademarked, but you can always hope that no one notices that you used it.

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  4. I sometimes get confused as to whether or not I should capitalize "Dumpster." Most people use the name generically but it is a trademark. All Dumpsters are trash receptacles but not all trash receptacles are Dumpsters.

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    1. I didn't know that. Dumpster is indeed trademarked, but the Associated Press style guide now allows dumpster as a generic term. Chicago probably follows suit, or will before long.

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  5. I read somewhere that the title of a song is not copyrighted, but no, you can't use the lyrics without permission. That's interesting about the book titles though.

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    Replies
    1. Song titles aren't copyrighted, but you can get them trademarked. Apparently, trademarking isn't as simple as copyrighting.

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  6. Very good stuff here. I knew about the song lyrics stuff, and in one of our books, we actually reached out to a fairly big band and asked their permission for us to mention their song lyrics in our book. We succeeded, and they endorsed the book, and... you'd probably never know it, because who the hell else knows this rule?

    (But if you do know this rule, hey, totally impressive)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was really nice of them to cooperate. You guys know how to work it.

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  7. I always assumed that they'd enjoy the free advertising unless you said something derogatory. I always wonder how the line "Kmart sucks" made it into Rain Man.

    I did know that whenever you use trademarked movies, characters, etc. in a TV show or movie, you have to get permission. (For instance, if a character in your film has a Star Wars poster on his wall, or a Darth Vader action figure.)

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    Replies
    1. Maybe they could say Kmart sucks because it does? If something is a fact, then it's not copyrightable.

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  8. Great information! We run into this all of the time at Pelican.

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  9. Happy Valentines Day, Janie-poo!

    Question: Kids are ready ancient writings and doing essays. When they reference "plebians" (versus patricians, etc.), should that be capitalized? We debated it, but in the end I thought "no." If we were talking about workers, we wouldn't capitalize that word. Or am I crazy? I put my question to the Queen.

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  10. My Royal Highness says plebians. If you need an answer and can't wait for The Queen, check your dictionary. A good dictionary will also capitalize brands that are trademarked.

    ReplyDelete

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