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gau dog
11-14-2009, 11:47 AM
I've been thinking about making a story deeply entrenched in 80's pop culture. In writing such a story and for illustration, is it fair use to directly mention or make references to real product brand names, product jingles, song verses, movies, tv shows, toys, video games?

Medievalist
11-14-2009, 09:01 PM
I've been thinking about making a story deeply entrenched in 80's pop culture. In writing such a story and for illustration, is it fair use to directly mention or make references to real product brand names, product jingles, song verses, movies, tv shows, toys, video games?

Fair Use is decided by a judge in court--after you've already been sued.

I think the thing to do is to write it, and keep meticulous track of where you got what.

Worry about TM and copyright if you get a publisher--and even then, there are ways to allude without infringing, or quoting.

BigWords
11-14-2009, 09:48 PM
You don't have to name some things, precisely because they are so ingrained into the pop-cultural landscape now. Plastic robot toys which change into cars and dinosaurs and weapons? Everyone will get that reference. Look to the obvious stuff and expand on what needs to be spelled out for the reader.

abctriplets
11-14-2009, 10:08 PM
Or alter the names slightly. I was just reading a story that mentioned YouSpace website and a Flitter feed...

Nya RAyne
11-14-2009, 10:15 PM
I've always wondered about that. I read a lot of John Sanford, and I noticed that he has absolutely no problem mentioning large corporate names. Is this wrong? In my new novel, I've alluded to several celebrities and/or movies, should I take this out or change the names to be not quite the same?

BigWords
11-14-2009, 10:28 PM
You can name companies, individuals and organizations as long as you don't besmirch their reputation or insinuate their involvement in illegal activity, etc.

Ken
11-14-2009, 10:44 PM
... you can always ask the companies, themselves. Most large ones have legal departments. Usually they'll ask you to write them saying what purpose you are planning to use the product name for. As mentioned, I don't think you need to take such steps, yourself, but it's not a bad way to get a direct feel for how companies stand on the issue. I did so myself when putting together a business card. One company denied my request, and another granted it free of charge.

gau dog
11-15-2009, 02:54 AM
I haven't started writing anything yet, but I just want to figure out the boundaries and riskiness of this. I know I can slightly alter stuff in the name of parody but I'd rather not be restricted to that. There's a level of nostalgia I want to capture. Changing things afterward can be a hassle though possible; I'd be making artwork too. I don't care as much of what companies think just so long as the legality of use is in my favor.

One time, I emailed Nintendo about use and they basically said they're understaffed to handle all requests so generally declined all use but added: "Although we are unable to grant permission, use of Nintendo's properties without formal permission by Nintendo may still be allowed under the relevant laws of the particular jurisdiction involved."

Any mention or use, I probably would utilize in a "positive" or "neutral" depiction or at least true to form/function. I don't want to use it to the extent as if I were giving the notion that I were officially representing these companies or in extreme prominence (though it's appearance would probably be direct)/(though I'd actually love to do product placements!). Is this a "safe" strategy?

bonitakale
11-16-2009, 05:02 AM
I believe that they can't make any problem for you if you use the name of a product, referring to that product. And titles of songs are fine, too. But a line from a song, no. They get nasty about that.

But what would happen to freedom of speech if you weren't allowed to refer to what you're referring to? Watch me: Microsoft is the Evil Empire. Nintendo is crap. Little boys love Transformers, but girls don't like them as well. She Googled her own name and found 4,000,000 citations. Robin got his first Yahoo mail account on Friday.

Or, from my childhood: You'll wonder where the white went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.

The more lawyers claim, the less you should give them. Sure, they try to claim that you can't use their names (I went to Worthington Station by mistake, my home depot is Devonshire Place.)

But they can't make it stick.

And no, I'm not a lawyer.

poetinahat
11-16-2009, 05:15 AM
Or alter the names slightly. I was just reading a story that mentioned YouSpace website and a Flitter feed...
IIRC, Salman Rushdie did this in The Ground Beneath Her Feet. It helped give the book sort of a parallel-universe vibe - which may or may not be a good thing.

gau dog
11-16-2009, 05:56 AM
Yeah, I actually considered making it a sci-fi parallel universe story to explain name alterations or variations in history but that's a different vibe and aren't feeling too hot on it. It's hard to make up spoofy names. It's like trying to find a web domain name that's not in use. Though I guess if I'm drawing it out, the other option could be to try to match the graphic design of the products involved and use the general "Burger" or "Game System" names while losing a bit of the nostalgia.

For songs, I guess I'd maybe use like up to half a sentence of a verse or the title lyric and then try to "hum" the rest.

This parodying and fair use thing seems all very tricky and hard to define. I guess the only way to find out is making the piece and letting lawyers and judges determine it. Luckily, if any publisher wants to publish it, I would hope they would analyze it with their legal team. And I'd only be in trouble if a company finds out and wants to sue me.