brands in nonfiction
Question: Can you include brand names in nonfiction writing without prior permission? For example if discussing social media and the major players. Answer:
Please understand that I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice. If you are in doubt, you should consult a lawyer and/or do some research on the subject.
That said, you have probably read many magazine and newspaper articles that mention brand names. Many companies see getting mentioned in nonfiction as a kind of advertising/publicity.
The big issue is what happens when you want to write something negative about a company or its products.
Obviously, most companies want to see only positive comments about them in print. But if writers needed a company's approval for every book and article, the result would be a suppression of free speech and information that may be in the public interest to know. It would mean that no journalist could report on corporate corruption, pollution, faulty products, labour issues, etc. It would mean that no writer could express an opinion other than what a company's PR department put out, which would turn publishing into a strictly advertising medium.
So no, you don't need to ask a company's approval before mentioning its product.
On the other hand, companies have a right to not be unfairly defamed by baseless accusations. For this reason, you need to make sure you have evidence to back up claims you make about a company, so you don't engage in slander.
Laws vary in different countries, but my understanding is that you are generally allowed to say anything about a company that is...
2. A fair comment.
3. In the public interest to know.
In all three cases, you need evidence to back up your statements.
You can also mention a product in passing without offering an opinion about it. For example, a statement like "A young man stood outside the store drinking Mountain Dew" is more about the young man than the beverage.
What you are not allowed to do is make statements that are both false and can potentially damage a company's profits through defamation.