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View Full Version : Hells Angels - can they be mentioned?



Ravioli
02-26-2015, 02:43 AM
I just got finished with my story and am now starting to edit it. A bit wary of the 81's reputation, I'm not so sure I should leave a certain thing unchanged.

I invented a resistance group within a ghetto similar to the Gaza Strip, only worse, in a dystopian Israel. They are mostly young men plotting the great escape, and helping out their fellow ghetto dwellers with gestures ranging from guarding them during curfew, over running over vicious military dogs, to trying to detonate the ghetto walls.
They call themselves the Hell's Angels because the ghetto is Hell, and they want to free/deliver its inhabitants, like angels. They are also militant and reckless, but only riding dirtbikes at best. Most of them are idealistic kids.
And in the epilogue I want to have them nominated honorary members by the real 81. I wonder if that's a good idea. Or if any inclusion or implication of the Club is.

Am I being paranoid or should I change the name and the outcome?

King Neptune
02-26-2015, 02:52 AM
I just got finished with my story and am now starting to edit it. A bit wary of the 81's reputation, I'm not so sure I should leave a certain thing unchanged.

I invented a resistance group within a ghetto similar to the Gaza Strip, only worse, in a dystopian Israel. They are mostly young men plotting the great escape, and helping out their fellow ghetto dwellers with gestures ranging from guarding them during curfew, over running over vicious military dogs, to trying to detonate the ghetto walls.
They call themselves the Hell's Angels because the ghetto is Hell, and they want to free/deliver its inhabitants, like angels. They are also militant and reckless, but only riding dirtbikes at best. Most of them are idealistic kids.
And in the epilogue I want to have them nominated honorary members by the real 81. I wonder if that's a good idea. Or if any inclusion or implication of the Club is.

Am I being paranoid or should I change the name and the outcome?

Why don't you ask them? There is a link to a contat page.
http://affa.hells-angels.com/

slhuang
02-26-2015, 04:49 AM
I had a reference to the Hell's Angels in my original draft, and then did some reading and found they vigorously defend their trademark. It seemed best to cut the reference, so I did.

Separately and in parallel to this, I ended up rewriting the motorcycle gang I portrayed in the book after meeting and working with a bunch of real-life Hell's Angels. I talk about why in a guest post on Chuck Wendig's site here. (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/03/27/s-l-huang-five-things-i-learned-writing-zero-sum-game/) The long and the short of it is: Please don't rely on popular assumptions of what the Hell's Angels are like. (I don't know if you are or not, to be clear, but I'm mentioning just in case.)

PeteMC
02-27-2015, 02:18 PM
I wouldn't - the Angels once sued Disney of all people for trademark infringement, amongst others:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hells_Angels#Intellectual_property_rights

King Neptune
02-27-2015, 05:38 PM
There's a huge difference between mentioning Hells Angels and inserting a logo. If you try putting the winged skull on the cover, then you can expect to be sued, but mentioning people wearing their colors is not a cause for action.

slhuang
02-27-2015, 06:30 PM
There's a huge difference between mentioning Hells Angels and inserting a logo. If you try putting the winged skull on the cover, then you can expect to be sued, but mentioning people wearing their colors is not a cause for action.

It may not be a legitimate cause, but even a suit that ends up getting dismissed can cause major headaches. Not that I'm saying the HA would bring an illegitimate suit, just saying that personally this is why I always try to err on the side of caution when it comes to a vigorously-defended trademark.

eta: IANAL, this is not legal advice, etc. :)

King Neptune
02-27-2015, 06:44 PM
It may not be a legitimate cause, but even a suit that ends up getting dismissed can cause major headaches. Not that I'm saying the HA would bring an illegitimate suit, just saying that personally this is why I always try to err on the side of caution when it comes to a vigorously-defended trademark.

eta: IANAL, this is not legal advice, etc. :)

I don't think they would even consider suing over a mention of Hells Angels in a work of fiction. There is a huge difference between using a trademark without permission and mentioning something. It is completely permissible to mention Mickey Mouse, but if you make a picture of Mickey you can expect Disney to sue.

slhuang
02-27-2015, 07:18 PM
I don't think they would even consider suing over a mention of Hells Angels in a work of fiction. There is a huge difference between using a trademark without permission and mentioning something. It is completely permissible to mention Mickey Mouse, but if you make a picture of Mickey you can expect Disney to sue.

But aren't there cases of people suing over the trademarked group/product being portrayed in what they perceive as a damaging manner?

(Again, IANAL, this is a sincere question.)

PeteMC
02-27-2015, 07:22 PM
But aren't there cases of people suing over the trademarked group/product being portrayed in what they perceive as a damaging manner?

(Again, IANAL, this is a sincere question.)

IANAL either but yes, I think so. Not saying that would happen in this specific case, just that I know the HA are very protective of their trademarks and identity (and rightly so IMO).

PorterStarrByrd
02-27-2015, 07:25 PM
As a writer, you are creative. I'd think you can some up with something different to name the group. You shouldn't have to rely on bringing up an image by using the name of a group that reminds you of yours. There probably are some legal issues involved in you naming your group Hell's Angels, though you could compare it to them if you needed to.

PeteMC
02-27-2015, 07:31 PM
Exactly - this is pretty much the whole premise of Sons of Anarchy - Angels by any other name

King Neptune
02-27-2015, 10:59 PM
But aren't there cases of people suing over the trademarked group/product being portrayed in what they perceive as a damaging manner?

(Again, IANAL, this is a sincere question.)

Sure they can file suit, but mentioning an organization in a work of fiction is protected, whether it's the Republican Party, Hells Angels, International Business Machines Corporation, or the Roman Catholic Church. If you write something that is false and defamatory, then they would have a cause for action, but that's a different matter.

Ravioli
02-28-2015, 12:16 AM
Thanks everyone for the input!

Well, I definitely don't mean to portray them poorly, on the contrary the reference is supposed to be flattering, but you never know. Actually, I may have watched too much TV, but I was less worried about legal action ;)

I just wrote them to ask them directly as King Neptune so wisely suggested.

Tazlima
02-28-2015, 12:43 AM
Thanks everyone for the input!

Well, I definitely don't mean to portray them poorly, on the contrary the reference is supposed to be flattering, but you never know. Actually, I may have watched too much TV, but I was less worried about legal action ;)

I just wrote them to ask them directly as King Neptune so wisely suggested.

My mother used to work with a former Hell's Angel (retired from the group with honors). He was a huge dude with a long beard and full-sleeve tattoos down both arms. Basically he looked like he would chew you up and spit you out, but he was actually super-nice.

Ravioli
02-28-2015, 01:33 AM
My mother used to work with a former Hell's Angel (retired from the group with honors). He was a huge dude with a long beard and full-sleeve tattoos down both arms. Basically he looked like he would chew you up and spit you out, but he was actually super-nice.

When I was around 8, 9 years old that was exactly what I wanted to marry :D

Mr Flibble
02-28-2015, 01:45 AM
he was actually super-nice.

Most of them are. Individually (and provided you don't fall foul of their particular honour, but that;s pretty easy -- don't be a dick.)

Ofc there's always one...but I've never had a problem with them and I've been to a couple of dozen Angels rallies. In fact they were incredibly helpful when a fire started at one, and helped everyone get medical attention etc (Not always in a conventional manner mind, but that's a whole 'nother story)

Also they make some pretty wicked wine.

PeteMC
02-28-2015, 03:31 PM
I just wrote them to ask them directly as King Neptune so wisely suggested.

I'd be really interested to hear what they say, please come back and let us know!

Deb Kinnard
02-28-2015, 06:09 PM
Since this is set in the middle east, why not "cheat" and call your group Hell's Seraphim or something similar? I doubt even the most aggressive lawyer could get you for that.

James simpson
02-28-2015, 08:23 PM
If you are that concerned about it you could always change the name slightly, for example from Hells Angles to Gods Demons. (Or something with more than two seconds thought put into it.)

King Neptune
02-28-2015, 10:39 PM
Or you could use the Devil's Disciples, as something distinct from the "outlaw type club".
http://www.devilsdiciples.org/

Tazlima
02-28-2015, 10:55 PM
When I was around 8, 9 years old that was exactly what I wanted to marry :D

One of my favorite parts of my years working at a vet was getting to see the soft side of tough guys on a regular basis. There are few things quite as adorable as a giant tough-as-nails dude cooing over a tiny little puppy or dropper-feeding a kitten.

Getting back to the main topic. People are people, and despite what the media would have us believe, the majority of people are pretty awesome if (as Mr. Flibble so succinctly put it) you aren't a dick.

Ravioli
03-02-2015, 04:43 AM
So that was a NOPE.

PeteMC
03-02-2015, 01:10 PM
Yeah I thought it might be - good job you asked then!

Luvspaghetti
03-03-2015, 11:28 PM
You know asking the president doesn't mean all the chapters will agree. In jail I found out that having the blessing of one didn't keep the others from reacting.

I'd write your story with their name in it and take it on the chin. You may get threatened either way. You have to decide how you want to live.

Ravioli
03-04-2015, 12:54 AM
Nah, no matter what they could or would do about it, I don't wanna disrespect them.

King Neptune
03-04-2015, 01:07 AM
Nah, no matter what they could or would do about it, I don't wanna disrespect them.

It would be easier to just use the Devil's Disciples instead.

Twick
03-06-2015, 10:08 PM
I think it's a good idea to go with something else, even if they'd said yes. You'd be stuck trying to tell readers, "Yes, they call themselves Hell's Angels, but they're not the actual Hell's Angels, you know?" That won't help the story.

Ravioli
03-06-2015, 10:10 PM
It would be easier to just use the Devil's Disciples instead.

But that implies evil.

King Neptune
03-06-2015, 10:54 PM
But that implies evil.

How do you figure that?

I thought I'd pasted this link before.
http://www.devilsdiciples.org/

Ravioli
03-06-2015, 11:15 PM
Ah, those guys... But Hells Angels everyone knows, the DDs I'm not so sure, so the reader is more likely to associate the name with a bunch of terrorists (aspiring to be the next devils) rather than what the Hells Angels' name can imply. I went with Seraphim of Gehenna for now, though it sounds so poetic I wanna throw up :D

King Neptune
03-07-2015, 12:11 AM
Ah, those guys... But Hells Angels everyone knows, the DDs I'm not so sure, so the reader is more likely to associate the name with a bunch of terrorists (aspiring to be the next devils) rather than what the Hells Angels' name can imply. I went with Seraphim of Gehenna for now, though it sounds so poetic I wanna throw up :D

I don't know for sure, but I think the Devil's Diciples are almost as well known as the Hell's Angels. They certainly are better known than are the Seraphim of Gehenna.

Another alternative is to call them the "Outlaw Bikers". Most people could figure out what sort of crowd you meant, and you wouldn't be identifying your characters with anyone else.

Bolero
03-07-2015, 01:48 AM
Thesaurus it?

as in

Unholy messengers.

Or go with a "knights" image - the romantic, chivalrous sort of knights, not the thugs in armour sort that went and beat up the middle east on crusades.

Mr Flibble
03-07-2015, 02:00 AM
Wait, so Hell's Angels has no negative connotations? :P


It has for many people (rightly or wrongly).

Or as suggested, just make up your own name. The so-and-so bike club

And this is going to sound odd -- it's bike club- BC for Angels and similar (here in the UK) A Motorcycle Club -- MCC -- is different. (OK well it was when I were involved with it all)

Call them the Devil's Rejects or something. As long as you drip in some other info (They drove up like a bike version of the ride of the Rohirrim, a vision in black leather and road dust) the reader should get what you mean

ironmikezero
03-07-2015, 02:07 AM
Whatever name you come up with, research it thoroughly for any existing/current copyright. Many clubs followed the HA's lead in protecting names/trademarks and can be quite litigious with presumed offenders. For the wiser among us, it's a headache easily avoided.

King Neptune
03-07-2015, 03:34 AM
Here's a list of motorcycle clubs. You can get soe ideas and see what to avoid.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_outlaw_motorcycle_clubs

Weirdmage
03-09-2015, 04:55 AM
I have only positive experiences of Hell's Angels, and I know of no people who have had bad experiences with HA if they have not gone in with a bad attitude towards them.
However, I don't really see why thre is a need for using them in fiction. (I don't see a need for using Coca Cola, Apple, Samsung, etc in fiction either. It reads like product placement to me. -iPod is a product, MP3 player is not, and that pissed me off with an author who is supposedly communist , or at least "true" socialist in the European sense).
To get back on the subject. There is rarely a need to use real world things in fiction. And if you do it you should do it because it is a shorthand to conway information to the reader. In the case of HA, that would sadly be of a criminal biker gang to most people (, even if that is not correct).

Also, in Israel/Gaza...Well, I am Norwegian and know little of the country, but I would expect an Isreali group too use Hebrew names, and an Arab group to use Arab names. And in a fiction environment the Hebrew/Arab name would help me get into the setting as a reader. So, I would suggest doing that. -If you however really feel the need to go with an English name, there is a HUGE playing field with names of "alternative" groups. Names that are also puns is normal, and shows the group is not humourless. As a Norwegian who has grown up secular, I don't really see the need to go Biblical if the group does not make a point of being Jewish/Muslims either. (That is a bit of Scandinavian culture BTW. We do not care about religion if you do not point it out. And then we expect there to be a reason for you pointing the religion out, i.e. in fiction I'd expect that to be an important part of the characters life.)

blacbird
03-09-2015, 10:12 AM
First, I wouldn't use Hell's Angels, purely because that name is so clearly associated in the public mind with the motorcycle club.

Second, I wouldn't use any name invoking hell or the devil, because just about any resistance group associated with Muslims would find those terms profoundly blasphemous and offensive.

Third, if you're worried about getting sued for mentioning the name of the motorcycle club, you've already offended them by posting here, and you better start watching your house at night.

caw

Ravioli
03-09-2015, 10:41 AM
Well actually, the group in my book isn't necessarily a motor club. They just happen to have a couple bikes. They're more like a mix between vigilantes, militants, and community volunteers who thought the name fit. Which is why other club names aren't really relevant.


Second, I wouldn't use any name invoking hell or the devil, because just about any resistance group associated with Muslims would find those terms profoundly blasphemous and offensive.

They're not all Muslims but thanks for the tip. Only one or two guys are identified as Muslims, but overall religion isn't a factor.


Also, in Israel/Gaza...Well, I am Norwegian and know little of the country, but I would expect an Isreali group too use Hebrew names, and an Arab group to use Arab names. And in a fiction environment the Hebrew/Arab name would help me get into the setting as a reader. So, I would suggest doing that. -If you however really feel the need to go with an English name, there is a HUGE playing field with names of "alternative" groups. Names that are also puns is normal, and shows the group is not humourless. As a Norwegian who has grown up secular, I don't really see the need to go Biblical if the group does not make a point of being Jewish/Muslims either. (That is a bit of Scandinavian culture BTW. We do not care about religion if you do not point it out. And then we expect there to be a reason for you pointing the religion out, i.e. in fiction I'd expect that to be an important part of the characters life.)

I've thought about that, but the average English speaker can't even pronounce the word "Ahmed" right and I've been carefully choosing character names with that in mind... Except, names come in greater variety. It's not that I'm expecting a public reading of my story, but personally, when I stumble over a word I have no idea how to pronounce in my head, that's like watching a movie and the boom guy appearing on screen.
I'll look into the puns thing though :D