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Question Concerning Copyrighted Titles

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Androxine Vortex, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    I was wondering, would it be possible for two books to be published under the same name? Sort of like how the name of a song might be for many different bands? I mean, I could understand if the book had a very unique or bizzare or specific name but what if it was something simpler?

    (I am not specifically worried about copying someone else's book title, I was just curious)
     
  2. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I often wondered that as well. Like I have a book I wanted to call Unspoken Words or Unwritten Words.... I can't remember exactly which, but anyways, I can't expect something like that to not be taken already, and often have wondered whether books and movies and stuff must have unique titles, or what qualifies as far as unique enough. I know with company names and product names that is a different scenario, and all.....
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Someone else might know more, and be able to correct me if I'm wrong. But I'm pretty sure book titles aren't copyrighted. I know they can be specially trademarked, but I don't know anything about which titles might qualify to apply for a trademark.

    It's my understanding that they don't have the same protections as a company name because the author's published name is part of the book's title. So unless someone used both your title and your pen name, they wouldn't have duplicated the name of the book.
     
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    That sounds about right, Devor, because with all copyrights, there must be a certain amount of uniqueness to have something copyrighted. Like how many ABC Plumbing are out there just to get on the top of the phone book.... I've never heard of a lawsuit over a book title (not that I am the most informed person) but I guess that is no indication that it can't happen..... as far as I know... where artistic works are concerned, the copyright laws are regarding copying a piece and selling it for profit. The subject matter is not itself copyrighted, and neither is the title of the piece (but that too is regarding 2-D art).
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Devor is correct, titles generally are not protected by copyright. They are simply too short. They can be protected by trademark, and that's a pretty fact-specific inquiry. Not every title is going to be protected by trademark, but there is now an increased attention to branding on books (as compared to a couple of decades ago) and more publishers are seeking (or at least claiming) trademark protection.

    Obvious examples would be titles that include "Harry Potter," or "Twilight," since those are big trademarks in publishing, movies, and the like (and are arguably famous marks). There are a number of registered trademarks for "Hunger Games," but most of those related to movies and associated merchandise rather than the novels. That said, if you call your book "Hunger Games" you could reasonably expect a challenge.

    Anihow - copyright does not depend on sale for profit. In fact, there are statutory damages provided by law so that a copyright owner does not have to prove the defendant sold the work or made any money on it.
     
  6. Considering that Amazon has dozens of books with the title "Down in the Valley" (and some searching will reveal many other titles that adorn dozens of books), you don't have to worry, unless it's a really well-known title or is specifically trademarked, as previously mentioned (Potter, Twilight, etc.).
     
  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Okay so then I have a related question..... I have loads of photos of myself in my costumes I made... are those protected by copyright or would I have to DO something to make them so...... I only ask because at this point I don't care about posting them; I put up the ones I don't mind people using for their own personal uses. But, if I ever saw my photos used for something.... like someone's website..... I might feel very different, and I know professional photographers do get copyrights on their work.... it's just a weird situation, because my art is the subject matter, and my photographer is my 5-year old son, and I really don't mind sharing, because I want more business, but I have some photos I do not want people to be USING for stuff, just looking at.....
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Those photos are automatically protected by copyright, and the copyright would belong to the photographer (in this case, your son, though I've never dealt with an issue involving a copyright owner that young). You can register them if you think you might ever have to sue to enforce the copyright, but it may not be worth the time and expense in this case (though registration is relatively cheap). To the extent there is copyright protection in the costumes themselves (which may or may not be the case), those would belong to you if you designed the costumes.
     
  9. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    Thanks everyone for the responses!
    :)
     
  10. Minors can't hold copyrights any more than they can own property; legally, unless they're emancipated, their parents own everything. That said, anihow owns the copyrights on the photos her 5-year-old son took.

    * I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, blah blah.
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Minors can own property. Control and ownership aren't the same thing.
     
  12. I don't think I'm clear on the distinction. As far as I understand it, anything "owned" by a minor may be appropriated by and disposed of in any manner by their parent at any time, without consent, and no crime will have been committed (barring something that qualifies as child abuse, e.g. taking away all their food for days at a time). Is that not the case?
     
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I took a tax class, and I remember a tale about a 2-year old girl who had an insurance settlement from when her father died at work..... the mom tried to claim the girl as a dependent on her taxes, but since she was using the child's money to pay rent, the girl was not considered a dependent..... but the money belonged to the child and not the mother, and she was able to use it for her own purposes....
     
  14. Inheritances are usually different, and are held in trust/managed by a guardian until the minor is an adult, AFAIK. That's different than a case of ordinary personal property, or something obtained by action during minorhood.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Minors can own property. The specific rules vary from state to state, and there are generally different rules for personal property as opposed to real property. Some states even have specific laws relating to transfer of property by minors (for example, a transfer of personal property that may be voidable).

    Minors can own copyrights, and the copyright office will issue a registration to a minor.
     
  16. All righty, I stand corrected. Although I'm still unclear on how that interacts with parental ownership; if I give my kid five bucks, and he buys a magazine, and then I take the magazine without permission, can I be charged with petty theft?
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    No, parents can control the property of minors in that way. This isn't my area of law, so my knowledge is limited. There is something called the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act that deals with some ownership issues relating to minors. For example, if a minor comes into possession of a large amount of money (through an inheritance or insurance policy or something), then a court may have to be involved for a parent to deal with those assets (they may be held in trust, the court may appoint someone, or whatever). But for that to happen, you'd probably need to be looking at a minimum of $10K or $20K to trigger those rules. If your kid buys an iPhone with their own money, and then you ground them and take it away from them, you're not going to have any problems :)
     
  18. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    The case I mentioned earlier involved several hundred thousand dollars that was paid to the little girl (because she was his next of kin, as the parents were not married). Not that that has any bearing on this conversation any more, just thought I'd specify.
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, in that case the courts are going to be involved.

    I was appointed as a guardian ad litem for a little girl (five or six) whose father was killed in Iraq. The mother wished to access the life insurance money, but the little girl was the beneficiary, not the mother. I had to represent the interests of the little girl and make sure the mother wasn't just going to waste the proceeds. She wasn't - she and the child needed the money to live on, so I ultimately sided with the mother on the issue. But there still had to be a hearing and the judge had to make a final determination as to whether the mother could access the money that belonged to the little girl.
     
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Laws for minors are weird. For instance, in New York a minor may sign a contract, but may also void it at any time. Some of the big issues have to do with legal presumptions about their ability to offer consent, as well as the ability to really distinguish between the child's property and the adult's. Typically, for the courts to get involved there has to be paperwork proving that the property belongs to the child and not the parents, such as the name on an account or a deed.

    My son has about thirty dollars in stock, and we get quarterly checks for like $0.53 with his name on it - plus my wife's, with the word Custodian in front. As Custodians we have complete control until he turns 18, even towards selling it and pocketing the dough (sure we'd spend it in his best interest...). But the level of control would change if the amount got significantly larger.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
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