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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Titles and plagerism and lesson learned

   
Author Topic: Titles and plagerism and lesson learned
honu
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I recently came up with this cool title for a flash fiction to find out that it had been taken many years ago... and I had never read the book the title was from no less. Having said that,,,google will now be my friend...and when I think I've come up with this nifty title I will google it and see if it's been done before.....thanks patrick james for catching my blunder
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TheOnceandFutureMe
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I'm pretty sure titles can't be copyrighted.
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Christine
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It's not plagarism to use the same title as someone else. You may or may not want to use a title if it's been used before, but there's nothing wrong with it in a legal sense.
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Brad R Torgersen
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Agreed. A writer can't really "own" a title. The book behind the title, sure. But not the title itself. Not unless that title is registered as a trademark, as is the case with Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.
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arriki
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Can't copy right titles. Just take a look at the lists on BN or amazon or Borders when when you search for a book by title.

I think even Star Wars and the like CAN be used but not with their trademark fonts. And not on a story that is similar, I bet.


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honu
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thanks guys...I felt bad to think I was ripping off someone else's idea when I hadn't even heard of the story...and the title works so well for my flash.....
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Christine
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I believe that a trademarked title can be used as long as it is for something completely unlike the original. So if you wrote a non-fiction book about the Star Wars program, you could call it Star Wars. But you couldn't call a science fiction movie or series Star Wars.
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tchernabyelo
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Loads of titles are ripoffs of quotes anyway - Shakespeare tends to be favourite, with T S Eliot second, and then Milton, Yeats and a few others. An on-line friend wrote a (very good) story called "Hope Is A Thing With Feathers" and it kind of irked me as it was an ideal title for something I'd written... then I found out it was an Emily Dickinson lift, so I stopped feeling that I couldn't use it just as "rightfully" for my story.
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Robert Nowall
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There's a recent non-fiction book called The Forever War, about, I gather, the Iraq war (I haven't read it)---but I wonder what Joe Haldeman, whose most famous SF book is also called The Forever War, thinks about it. Certainly all I could think of was that this guy ripped off Haldeman's title.

I wonder if the guy even knew about Haldeman and his novel. Of course, a few years ago, Michael Moore put out a movie, Fahrenheit 9 / 11...and disclaimed any knowledge whatsoever of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. (Unbelievably, I thought---surely some fact checker would have pointed out the source to Moore before the movie came out.)

So, I guess you can't copyright a title, and can use what you feel like, provided you're not misrepresenting your work as that work...


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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honu, you could reverse the words and make it sound heraldic: "Dragon Reluctant" (or not--it's just an idea).
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honu
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ooooh I like that Kathleen thanks ! i am waiting for the bounce...sent it already...then I try thanks again
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aspirit
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Even if you (general "you") decide to use a story title that's been published, it's still a good idea to perform a quick Web search to see what readers might connect to your story. The same goes for unusual character names.
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philocinemas
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Never heard of Fahrenheit 451? Politics aside, that's proof positive that Michael Moore is the ignoramus I always thought he was!

tchernabyelo, don't forget titles from the Bible among most popular lifts.

This is great news. I can't wait for everyone to read my new novel, The Hobbit! (I am resisting the sudden urge to use the Smiles Legend)


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aspirit
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An editor would change a novel title that would be challenging to market. Almost no one would buy a new novel called The Hobbit. The best titles are those that helps readers understand and remember the stories they're reading.
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Robert Nowall
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There's the story of a science fiction writer in the 1950s, writing SF-stories-by-contract for a magazine---he wrote a specific amount of SF stories and the market would buy them (and, gee, what a great deal if you could get it today).

However, the market consistently wouldn't use either the titles he'd put on the stories, or the pseudonyms he'd submit the stories under. So he took to submitting, titles / stories like "Great Expectations" / Charles Dickens, and "The Sun Also Rises" / Ernest Hemingway.


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aspirit
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Who was this? Did he actually publish under those pseudonyms and with those titles?
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Robert Nowall
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He was Randall Garrett, and, no, like his previously submitted material, they changed the names and pseudonyms...
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shimiqua
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//it's still a good idea to perform a quick Web search to see what readers might connect to your story. The same goes for unusual character names.//

I goggled the name I had for a town, and found out that it is the name of a porn star.

Woops. (Yes I did change the name.)

So google searches can be your friend.

~Sheena


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micmcd
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On the side thread, I'm pretty sure Michael Moore didn't use "never heard of it" as a defense - the title was a direct and intentional play off of Fahrenheit 451. I do recall that he didn't ask permission and Bradbury was rather pissed (particularly b/c he didn't agree with the political opinions of Moore). As I recall, he simply claimed fair use - parody, particularly in political commentary, is a fairly well-protected right in the US.
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Robert Nowall
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The story I heard was that "Fahrenheit 9 / 11" came to Moore in an e-mail subject line---but I found it hard to believe it would survive as the title of a movie without someone at the studio researching its origins and discovering, if not Bradbury's story, then at least the 1960s-era Truffaut-directed (I think) movie made from it.

*****

I once carefully constructed a name of a city for a novel (that I never finished), starting with one medieval French phrase, and morphing it into a single word. Then I found Tolkien had used it as the name of a realm, and that I knew I had to have seen it there.

There's the story of how the name "Eleanor Rigby" came to Paul McCartney---"Eleanor" from Eleanor Bron, an actress in "Help!", and "Rigby" from a store window in Bristol. But there's also a tombstone in a cemetary in Liverpool, where McCartney (and Lennon) used to hang out and goof off, that bears the name "Eleanor Rigby." McCartney says he didn't remember seeing it---but, probably, he had to have seen it, and, maybe, that's why the name felt right when he settled on it.


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