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Ambergold
03-14-2008, 12:55 AM
Hello all,
I was wondering if you’re allowed mention brand names in books freely? The reason I as this (since I always thought that you could) was because my beta reader told me that you need permission before you can do this. She said it was against the law to mention something like a certain fizzy drink company or a song titles without it. For this reason, I was told it would probably easier not to mention brands at all. Now this doesn’t sit easy with me; especially when I’m aware that mentioning brands and real songs can help the reader believe in your story. So, any advice on the protocol on mentioning brands, places, songs, etc would be gratefully received.

IceCreamEmpress
03-14-2008, 01:22 AM
I was wondering if you’re allowed mention brand names in books freely?

It feels like we get this question every day--maybe we need a stickie about it?

You can mention the names of commercial products, books/movies/magazines/plays/songs, public places, and public figures all you want, as long as you don't ascribe anything potentially defamatory to them.

"I was drinking a Pepsi and listening to Queen Latifah's cover of 'Ain't Misbehavin'' as I rode down Mulholland Drive, the top of my '75 Mustang convertible rolled back and the air streaming through my hair" = NO PROBLEM

"Joan offered me a Pepsi, but I said no, knowing that it was full of corrosive chemicals that damaged your liver. I avoided Mulholland Drive, because that's where the police hang out to trap you with falsified speeding tickets. With the top of my '75 Mustang convertible rolled back, I worried constantly that it might snap forward and decapitate me at any moment, the way they do. I snapped on the radio: hearing Queen Latifah singing 'Ain't Misbehavin'', I switched it off in disgust. I couldn't believe they were playing her songs on the air, now that she had been revealed to have funded al-Qaeda terrorists in Canada." = EXPECT MAIL FROM LOTS OF ANGRY ATTORNEYS


You can't quote song lyrics without permission. Song titles are not copyrightable, though.


The only other issue is the correct rendering of trademarked and servicemarked names. You can't write "He handed her a kleenex" because Kleenex is a trademark. And you will get letters from their attorneys if the copyeditors space out on that.

Jeremy
03-14-2008, 01:22 AM
Here is a thread on this subject:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50150&highlight=trade+marked

From what I gather you're typically free to use the names, just not images and/or logos of them. You should avoid using real brand names if you're negative towards them, just in case. Otherwise, I imagine major brand name companies could consider the mentioning of them as free advertising. What company wouldn't want that?

Ambergold
03-14-2008, 01:40 AM
Ice Cream Empress and Jeremy, you've really cleared things up for me. Thanks.

ReneC
03-14-2008, 01:57 AM
"I was drinking a Pepsi and listening to Queen Latifah's cover of 'Ain't Misbehavin'' as I rode down Mulholland Drive, the top of my '75 Mustang convertible rolled back and the air streaming through my hair" = NO PROBLEM

"Joan offered me a Pepsi, but I said no, knowing that it was full of corrosive chemicals that damaged your liver. I avoided Mulholland Drive, because that's where the police hang out to trap you with falsified speeding tickets. With the top of my '75 Mustang convertible rolled back, I worried constantly that it might snap forward and decapitate me at any moment, the way they do. I snapped on the radio: hearing Queen Latifah singing 'Ain't Misbehavin'', I switched it off in disgust. I couldn't believe they were playing her songs on the air, now that she had been revealed to have funded al-Qaeda terrorists in Canada." = EXPECT MAIL FROM LOTS OF ANGRY ATTORNEYS


I'm taping this to my wall. :ROFL:

maestrowork
03-14-2008, 02:16 AM
You don't need permission to mention brands, songs, names, buildings, records, Presidents, or just about anything.

You do need permission if you want to quote the content (lyrics, for example).

Stijn Hommes
03-14-2008, 02:24 AM
The only other issue is the correct rendering of trademarked and servicemarked names. You can't write "He handed her a kleenex" because Kleenex is a trademark. And you will get letters from their attorneys if the copyeditors space out on that. Kleenex is one of those oddball cases where a brand name ended up in the regular language as a word to describe the product in general. Unless the trademark owners are troublemakers with regard to people mentioning their product (despite a distinct lack of defamation), I wouldn't worry about that either.

IceCreamEmpress pretty much nailed the answer. Perhaps it needs a sticky... I've seen this question a lot too.

IceCreamEmpress
03-14-2008, 02:55 AM
Kleenex is one of those oddball cases where a brand name ended up in the regular language as a word to describe the product in general

Actually, if you were in the US and wrote "kleenex" instead of "Kleenex" you'd get a letter from the Kimberley-Clark corporation. They're pretty rigorous about protecting the trademark. Same with writing "xerox" instead of "Xerox"; Xerox gets pretty angry with people writing "I went over to the Mita copier and made a xerox".

Companies also take out ads in the Columbia Journalism Review to remind newspaper and magazine writers to render their trademarked names as proper nouns. Some of the ads are witty, too.

lute
03-14-2008, 04:39 AM
"Joan offered me a Pepsi, but I said no, knowing that it was full of corrosive chemicals that damaged your liver. I avoided Mulholland Drive, because that's where the police hang out to trap you with falsified speeding tickets. With the top of my '75 Mustang convertible rolled back, I worried constantly that it might snap forward and decapitate me at any moment, the way they do. I snapped on the radio: hearing Queen Latifah singing 'Ain't Misbehavin'', I switched it off in disgust. I couldn't believe they were playing her songs on the air, now that she had been revealed to have funded al-Qaeda terrorists in Canada." = EXPECT MAIL FROM LOTS OF ANGRY ATTORNEYS


Hahaha, that was golden. That's all I have to say. You pretty much covered this topic already : )

Shweta
03-14-2008, 05:46 AM
Moved to story research.

HeronW
03-15-2008, 12:06 AM
Certain brands will tied your story to a time. Make sure the brands mentioned are existing during the time of the story. Sometimes too many brand names thrown about yanks the reader out of the story to pay attention to the Camel cigarettes and the Coors beer and the Prada shooes etc. Less is more to create an effective setting.