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Author Topic: Author's using taken titles
Clive Candy
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Some time back someone released a literary novel called "The Forever War." Even though I haven't read the Joe Hadelman novel, I instinctively had a negative reaction to someone else using the same title, because I knew that "The Forever War" was regarded as great sci-fi novel and thought it highly suspect for some newcomer to use the same title. I also see a book called "Stardust" about Hollywood every time I go to Borders. Now at Amazon I came across this novel called "Whirlwind":

http://www.amazon.com/Whirlwind-Dreamhouse-Kings-Robert-Liparulo/dp/1595548157/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266233490&sr=1-4

Except that the great James Clavell has a gargantuan novel of the same title that I look forward to reading one day.

Why do authors do this? Is it ignorance? Or is it arrogance -- they are aware that other books already have these titles but they hope that their work will be a greater success and will therefore be more deserving of the title? Whatever the case, it is a curious phenomenon.

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Clive Candy
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James Clavell has been wronged twice:

http://www.amazon.com/King-Rat-China-Mieville/dp/0312890729/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266234166&sr=1-3

Here's his:

http://www.amazon.com/King-Rat-James-Clavell/dp/0385333765/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266234166&sr=1-1

It's a great book.

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Lisa
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Any title that's a simple word or phrase is liable to be used for more than just one work.

Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston
Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
Book of the Dead by Tanith Lee
Book of the Dead by Robert Richardson
Book of the Dead by Ashley McConnell

The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald
The Moving Target by W. S. Merwin

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Enchantment by Daphne Merkin

(Merkin's book came first, incidentally)

Sideshow by Sheri S. Tepper
Sideshow by Michael D. Resnick
Sideshow by W. R. Thompson

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Hard Times by Studs Terkel

Tough Luck by Jason Starr
Tough Luck by Errol Broome

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scholarette
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I'm still trying to figure out why the apostrophe in the topic.
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DDDaysh
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Once in college I didn't pay close enough attention to the author when reading a book for English class. I was halfway through a novel titled "Beloved" that was written in the 1800s before the first discussion in class revealed that I wasn't reading the correct book!
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Lisa
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Maybe "an author's use of taken titles" becomes "an author's using of taken titles", treating "using" as a noun, rather than a verb?

Or maybe it's "Author is using taken titles", and the apostrophe is for a contraction, rather than indicating possession?

Incidentally, can anyone think of an actual distinction (other than spelling, number of syllables, and word length) between the verbs "use" and "utilize"? Is there ever any justification for the latter?

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by DDDaysh:
Once in college I didn't pay close enough attention to the author when reading a book for English class. I was halfway through a novel titled "Beloved" that was written in the 1800s before the first discussion in class revealed that I wasn't reading the correct book!

Was it at least worth reading?
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Christine
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I don't think it's that big a deal. Maybe if a title were truly unique, I'd be upset about it, but "The Forever War," while not a bad title, is also somewhat generic. I'm sure there are hundreds of stories out there for which the title would be perfectly well suited.

I neither find it to be ignorance nor arrogance. It's got more to do with the fact that titles are designed to be short and grab the reader's attention. This formula is bound to lead to some overlap, especially when you consider how many millions of books there are.

As an author, I will say that I do a search for my prospective titles before I choose them just to see what else comes up, but I don't necessarily care.

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Itsame
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Lisa: To utilize something is to make effective use of it; whereas straight use can be ineffectual.
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Orincoro
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Authors = plural of author, ie: My two favorite authors are Hemingway and Crane.

Author's = possessive, ie: This author's best work is definitely his first book.


Learn it. Use it.

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Shmuel
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What Lisa said. This happens all the time, and is entirely unremarkable. There are only so many titles out there.

(It happens with music, too... there are umpteen songs named "Heart and Soul," to pick the first example off the top of my head.)

See also Boneshaker and The Boneshaker.
quote:
This is, as we say in the ‘biz, “No big whoop.” It’s certainly not a whoop that causes me any particular consternation or woe. I am not losing any sleep at night over this whoop. This is a non-whoop.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:

Why do authors do this? Is it ignorance? Or is it arrogance -- they are aware that other books already have these titles but they hope that their work will be a greater success and will therefore be more deserving of the title? Whatever the case, it is a curious phenomenon.

Number of books published in America in a typical year: about 175,000

Number of books published in the United Kingdom in a given year: 200,000

Number of words in the English language (excluding scientific forms): around 500,000

Number of years in which is remains possible to publish books with only unique one word titles at that speed: around 2.5

Curious? No. That is unless you conceive of the world as existing only in the form of the things you personally observe- I actually think in this case, that is precisely your issue.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
Lisa: To utilize something is to make effective use of it; whereas straight use can be ineffectual.

Thanks.
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Clive Candy
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:

Why do authors do this? Is it ignorance? Or is it arrogance -- they are aware that other books already have these titles but they hope that their work will be a greater success and will therefore be more deserving of the title? Whatever the case, it is a curious phenomenon.

Number of books published in America in a typical year: about 175,000

Number of books published in the United Kingdom in a given year: 200,000

Number of words in the English language (excluding scientific forms): around 500,000

Number of years in which is remains possible to publish books with only unique one word titles at that speed: around 2.5

But that's just one one word. You might as well have said "only twenty four books can have the alphabet letters as a unique title!" If you say said two words, you would have 124999750000 times 2 possible titles. Say three words, and you have 20833208333500000 times 6 possible titles, and in both cases that's assuming you won't be repeating a word in the title. These possible number of titles, if you have not been following, are on an order totally greater than mere hundreds of thousands or millions and would be depleted in a timescale that can only be measured in geological terms.

quote:
Curious? No. That is unless you conceive of the world as existing only in the form of the things you personally observe- I actually think in this case, that is precisely your issue.
This little jibe doesn't follow from your wrongheaded mathematical demonstration. So here's a picture of Theodore Adorno as long as we're throwing out non sequiturs.
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fugu13
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The space of titles that make any sort of sense, much less the space of interesting titles, is much smaller than those numbers. It is entirely reasonable that there are repeats, and not at all surprising.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
These possible number of titles, if you have not been following, are on an order totally greater than mere hundreds of thousands or millions and would be depleted in a timescale that can only be measured in geological terms.

I know. I was pointing out that you yourself seemed to be referencing a number of single word titles. Single word titles are relatively scarce. End of story.
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Clive Candy
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
These possible number of titles, if you have not been following, are on an order totally greater than mere hundreds of thousands or millions and would be depleted in a timescale that can only be measured in geological terms.

I know. I was pointing out that you yourself seemed to be referencing a number of single word titles. Single word titles are relatively scarce. End of story.
Well yes, and there's an originality component to being the first to use a really good single word as an appropriate title. When someone else then uses the same word, there's less of a creativity component. Possibly the author who was there first is being mimicked. Just as an author strives to be original with their plot and characters, they should strive to be original with their titles. That it happens all the time doesn't make it less of a lame thing on the author's part.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
Well yes, and there's an originality component to being the first to use a really good single word as an appropriate title. When someone else then uses the same word, there's less of a creativity component. Possibly the author who was there first is being mimicked. Just as an author strives to be original with their plot and characters, they should strive to be original with their titles. That it happens all the time doesn't make it less of a lame thing on the author's part.

You're assuming that all authors are striving to be original in plot or character. There is a long-standing debate in the writing world as to whether or not there are any truly new ideas and personally, I lean toward the argument that there aren't. There are new spins, new blendings, and new voices but everything builds on what came before. I submit that a truly unique story would not be particularly enjoyable because the reader couldn't relate to it in any way.

Similarly, I don't think titles need to be unique. They just need to be something that grabs the reader's attention and makes him want to pick up the book and read the back cover. That's what a title is -- a marketing gimmick.

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Sean Monahan
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I wonder, in how many cases the author is overruled in his choice of title, e.g. with The Return of the King.

Interestingly, here is Cory Doctorow speaking of the title for his story "I, Robot" (which also, btw, is not an Asimov original title):

"Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over Michael Moore appropriating the title of 'Fahrenheit 451' to make Fahrenheit 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick apart the totalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf's classic narratives."

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Uprooted
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Orincoro, are you going to keep posting here or tell us about your date? Or did you do that in some other thread where I'm not looking for it?
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Frisco
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I'd much rather an author use an appropriate repeat title than use a Random Book Title Generator.

Total *yawn* topic.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
That it happens all the time doesn't make it less of a lame thing on the author's part.

Uh... yeah it does.
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Clive Candy
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
That it happens all the time doesn't make it less of a lame thing on the author's part.

Uh... yeah it does.
Uh, er, *clears throat*, why?
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
That it happens all the time doesn't make it less of a lame thing on the author's part.

Uh... yeah it does.
Uh, er, *clears throat*, why?
If you'll re-read the thread more carefully, I think you'll find that this question has already been answered in great detail.
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Orincoro
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:feels like he's in Zoolander:

Seriously Clive? I just explained the whole thing.

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Dobbie
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David Coperfield by Edmund Wells
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Grate Expectations by Edmund Wells
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins
Hollywood Wives by Jack Edward Collins

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Orincoro
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Let's not forget Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Samuel Clemens, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

Scandalous!

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scholarette
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I think the assumption that the author gets to name the book is amusing.
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Clive Candy
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You guys are being obstinate. It's not a clever thing to use for your book a title that's already used. End of thread.
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Clive Candy
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
That it happens all the time doesn't make it less of a lame thing on the author's part.

Uh... yeah it does.
Uh, er, *clears throat*, why?
If you'll re-read the thread more carefully, I think you'll find that this question has already been answered in great detail.
Those were bad answers.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Sean Monahan:
I wonder, in how many cases the author is overruled in his choice of title, e.g. with The Return of the King.

Interestingly, here is Cory Doctorow speaking of the title for his story "I, Robot" (which also, btw, is not an Asimov original title):

"Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over Michael Moore appropriating the title of 'Fahrenheit 451' to make Fahrenheit 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick apart the totalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf's classic narratives."

Oh, dear God, that would be lovely! I hope he does it.

[ February 15, 2010, 07:27 PM: Message edited by: Lisa ]

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Sean Monahan
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More from Cory about it from his intro to "Anda's Game":

"This was the first of several stories I’ve written with titles from famous sf stories and novels (Anda’s Game sounds a lot like “Ender’s Game” when pronounced in a British accent). I came to this curious practice as a response to Ray Bradbury describing Michael Moore as a crook for repurposing the title “Fahrenheit 451” as “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Bradbury doesn’t like Moore’s politics, and didn’t want his seminal work on free speech being used to promote opposing political ideology.

Well, this is just too much irony to bear. Titles have no copyright, and science fiction is a field that avidly repurposes titles—it seems like writing a story called “Nightfall” is practically a rite of passage for some writers. What’s more, the idea that political speech (the comparison of the Bush regime to the totalitarian state of Fahrenheit 451) should be suppressed because the author disagrees is antithetical to the inspiring free speech message that shoots through Fahrenheit 451.

So I decided to start writing stories with the same titles as famous sf, and to make each one a commentary, criticism, or parody of the cherished ideas of the field. Anda’s Game was the first of these, but it’s not the last—I, Robot appears elsewhere in this volume, and I’m almost finished a story called True Names that Ben Rosenbaum and I have been tossing back and forth for a while. After that, I think it’ll be The Man Who Sold the Moon, and then maybe Jeffty is Five."

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
You guys are being obstinate. It's not a clever thing to use for your book a title that's already used. End of thread.

I don't think cleverness plays into it. You're being obtuse.
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Clive Candy
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
You guys are being obstinate. It's not a clever thing to use for your book a title that's already used. End of thread.

I don't think cleverness plays into it.
That's says more than enough.
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Xann.
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quote:
Originally posted by Clive Candy:
You guys are being obstinate. It's not a clever thing to use for your book a title that's already used. End of thread.

I think your all being impolite, It is obvious that Clive decided that the thread ended some time ago.
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Mike
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But wait, there's more:

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote, Pierre Ménard

[Smile]

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katharina
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Clive is welcome to leave.

1. I have no problem with identical titles, especially when it is non-iconic and uses common words. The Forever War is generic enough to be total fair game.

The Don Quixote seems a bit pointed, but I imagine it was intended that way.

2. I took the title as a contraction of "[This] Author [is] using taken titles"

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dabbler
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I'm surprised no one pointed out that CC uses only 24 letters of the alphabet.

Cleverness, if it even matters much, should be judged by fit of title to book, and not to the originality of the title. A play on words to a previous title might actually make it particularily clever. Obviously the cleverness of anything is subjective.

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Shmuel
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"Clive Candy" is the protagonist of the 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. I don't know whether this impostor (or possibly his parents) chose his name out of ignorance, arrogance, or just plain lameness.
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Sean Monahan
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There are also permutations of words to consider. Gene Wolfe has 4 stories titled:

Death of the Island Doctor
The Island of Doctor Death
The Death of Doctor Island
The Doctor of Death Island


ETA: Actually the second one is a single story titled The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories. It is contained in a collection called The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories.

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Leonide
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I thought of a cool story idea the other day, and the title that popped to mind after said brainstorm was "Beautiful Dreamer". This title has at least 4 other publications, not to mention being a rip off of the old song. However, I still think it's the most appropriate title for the story I've conceived. I can help but not have a problem with this [Smile]
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Omega M.
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Hard Times by Studs Terkel

I assume Studs Terkel deliberately alluded to Dickens's novel with his title, as each book is about poor people in a different time period.
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scifibum
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I think it's likely enough that Terkel arrived at the title independently. "Hard Times" is a fairly common way to describe a period of poverty.
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Ron Lambert
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Has anyone ever trademarked the title of a book? Is it even possible to do so, legally?

I wonder what would be the repercussions if someone wrote a novel and titled it, "The Holy Bible"?

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katharina
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Nothing, except it would never show up on the first page of an Amazon search.
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:
Has anyone ever trademarked the title of a book? Is it even possible to do so, legally?

I wonder what would be the repercussions if someone wrote a novel and titled it, "The Holy Bible"?

It is my understanding that titles can sometimes be protected trademarks. Most titles don't qualify. They need to have "secondary meaning":

quote:
Secondary meaning, with regard to literary titles, is only found when in the minds of the public, the particular title is associated with a single source of the literary work. Although blatant attempts to pass off another publisher's title as one's own may be protected by unfair competition law, it generally is not an easy process to protect a single title. It is much easier for a publisher to protect a series title under unfair competition and federal trademark law; in fact, federal trademark law permits the registration of a series title.
"Harry Potter" is probably protected under trademark law.

Nobody could lay claim to "The Holy Bible", though, since that has been used on many different versions (no single source) and no single entity could claim ownership.

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Tatiana
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I hope you'll all want to read my upcoming books Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Being and Nothingness, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.

And don't forget to read my back catalog consisting of Victims and Perpetrators, Love and War, I and Thou, Trust and Betrayal, Paeans and Elegies, and Please and Thank You, please... and thank you!

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Ron Lambert
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There are probably many people named "Harry Potter" who would object to their name being trademarked. Especially if they own a ceramics shop. But if I were to publish a book titled, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," I am sure I would hear from Joanna K. Rowling's lawyers in short order. Or her publisher's lawyers.

The real restraint would be imposed by the simple fact that anyone who obviously and blatantly tries to steal someone else's thunder by usurping their book title in an way that seems obviously meant to deceive, then that would compromise the author's reputation forever.

But some titles are so common that no one could reasonably claim they were meant to deceive anyone by usurping someone else's title.

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