Proper Nouns Usage

by EM

Question: I'm currently working on a novel and I stopped for a moment because of something bothering me.

The question that bothered me was "does using a brand, landmark or anything proper noun infringes something?".

I mean, I used 7-Eleven, Taco Bell, lines from some songs, mentioning a celebrity name, Etc.

And if so, do I need to write a letter for permission or something?

Thank you very much for your articles!

Answer: I'm not a lawyer, so please don't take this as legal advice, but here's my understanding of these issues...

1. Never use lines from songs unless they are so old they are in public domain. You are allowed to make brief quotes from other works, up to a small percentage of the work in question, and so long as you give credit to the author. However, since song lyrics are so short, it's hard to take a meaningful quote without violating the lyricist's copyright. It's safer to just treat lyrics as off-limits.

2. As for company names, usually this is not a problem unless you are saying something about a company that would damage its reputation, making your work qualify as slander or libel. Otherwise, you're just giving them free advertising.

If your characters simply eat at Taco Bell in one scene, no problem. If your murder plot depicts the CEO of Taco Bell as a psychopath who deliberately poisons burgers, that could be a problem and you should invent a fictional fast food chain instead.

One would hope that your publisher would have enough legal expertise to sort out any grey areas.

However, it's a matter that can be dealt with after you have signed a publishing contract. Don't get hung up on such matters now, while you're still working on a manuscript. Your job at this stage is to follow your passion and write a good story.

Don't listen to that voice that would have you worry, "Am I doing this wrong? Am I making a mistake?" That voice can halt creativity in its tracks.

Comments for Proper Nouns Usage

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May 16, 2012
by: EM

Once again, I can't further express my gratitude!

You taught me a new lesson today. "Don't listen to that voice that would have you worry, "Am I doing this wrong? Am I making a mistake?" That voice can halt creativity in its tracks."

Thank you very much!
(Just to exaggerate, I would fly down there and bro fist you! :D )

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