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Subtitles and Copyright Protection

Crumbly Writer

If you use a subtitle in your book, how do you protect both the title and subtitle via copyright.

For example, if I have a book entitled "Superhero Avengers: Rage Against the Copier Machine", if I included the entire phrase as the title, would that not protect the "Superhero Avengers"? Likewise, if I make the title just "Superhero Avengers", does that mean that anyone can copy my "Rage Against the Copier Machine" subtitle?

I've never used a subtitle before, and I'm a bit confused. But then again, I've never been sure how series titles are protected either, since the various Indie publishing agencies (Amazon, CS, smashwords, Lulu and Bowker) don't seem to flag, or in some cases, even record that information.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


f you use a subtitle in your book, how do you protect both the title and subtitle via copyright.

For example, if I have a book entitled "Superhero Avengers: Rage Against the Copier Machine", if I included the entire phrase as the title, would that not protect the "Superhero Avengers"? Likewise, if I make the title just "Superhero Avengers", does that mean that anyone can copy my "Rage Against the Copier Machine" subtitle?


You can't protect titles or subtitles via copyright. You have to use trademarks for that.

You could potentially get three trade marks, one for the main title, one for the subtitle and one for the full title.

I should warn you though, you will have legal issues with DC and Marvel if you try to trademark that title in the US.

"Superhero" is already trademarked (jointly held by DC and Marvel). The sued and counter sued each other over the term decades ago and finally settled on joint custody.

"Avengers" is a Marvel trademark.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=6738

Dominions Son

@Dominions Son

You can't protect titles or subtitles via copyright. You have to use trademarks for that.


Forgot to mention, unlike copyrights, trademarks are not automatic. To have a valid trademark, it must be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

You can't protect titles or subtitles via copyright. You have to use trademarks for that.

You could potentially get three trade marks, one for the main title, one for the subtitle and one for the full title.

I should warn you though, you will have legal issues with DC and Marvel if you try to trademark that title in the US.

Thanks. I guess it's late and I was mistakenly thinking the copyright of the text when publishing somehow included the title (which it clearly doesn't, since my original "Stranded" had to compete with over 2,000 other books with the exact same title, and is why I eventually changed the title and republished it).

As for trademarking said title, "Superhero Avengers" was intended as a joke, so I wouldn't have to reveal the title before I'm ready. (I thought the "Rage Against the Copier Machine" made that clear, since it's a clear ripoff of "The Avengers: Rage Against the Machine". I had no intention of actually using that title!

But thanks for the information and the quick response.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


As for trademarking said title, "Superhero Avengers" was intended as a joke


I wasn't sure if that title was serious or not. It could have been a seriously intended title for a parody. However, I though I would mention the bit about superhero just in case, because a lot of people aren't aware that "superhero" is actually trademarked.

Marvel and DC are fairly decent trademark custodians in this case as they will generally ignore fan fiction and other works that are put out for free. They only go after "superhero" users that enter the market place in the covered fields.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Dominions Son

"superhero" is actually trademarked.


What would be the legal odds if it was changed into two words instead of a joined word. Example Super Hero. Would the change be considered as a violation of the trademark?

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

What would be the legal odds if it was changed into two words instead of a joined word. Example Super Hero. Would the change be considered as a violation of the trademark?

Maybe I'll start a comic company (with all the money rolling in from my books 'D) and publish "Superiorheros" comics!

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Super, superior, supreme. Go for Supreme Heroes. Yes my spellcheck underlined Heros. Likes Heroes.

If Superhero is trademarked, can they take action if you use Supreme Heroes? Neither word is one they used.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

In general, titles are open slather, no matter what. But the US Trademark laws are about as logical as a piece of spaghetti in a small ball of spaghetti is a straight line - and makes less sense than the spaghetti.

I've heard certain US companies have registered trademarks for names like Superhero and Avengers as well as many other like them. However, how they'd hold up in court is another matter. I suspect it'll be like the old Space Marines legal battle (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.C.A._Hogarth ). There's a wealth of prior art and evidence to show the names as being more public domain than trademark, both as individual ones and as a joint effort. I can think of a 1950s film and a 1960s TV show that kills a strong trademark ownership of Avengers and Superhero is even older, first used in 1913.

docholladay
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

The big question is did they trademark the joined words because the separate words were generic and considered as public domain?

Of course I am not a lawyer or even college educated just a poor 9th grade level schooling (due to being in a damned institution). edited to add: They could never charge me with more than self-defense, but could have me put into a mental hospital and destroy my future that way.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

I can think of a 1950s film and a 1960s TV show that kills a strong trademark ownership of Avengers and Superhero is even older, first used in 1913.


Doesn't matter because it's in a different field and there is no such thing as prior art or a public domain for trademarks. As far as prior use and trademarks go, to kill a trademark, you would have to show that it was used as a generic term in the field for which it was registered. TV show and Movie titles won't work for that.

Trademarks are issued for specific fields and the application of that trademark applies on to the field or fields for which it was registered.

You can register a trademark that was previously registered by someone else if the original holder has abandoned their mark.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

But the US Trademark laws are about as logical as a piece of spaghetti in a small ball of spaghetti is a straight line - and makes less sense than the spaghetti.


This is just not true. You think it's true because a lot of people talk about IP in the generic sense and you keep trying to apply patent and copyright concepts (prior use and public domain) to trademarks.

You need to understand that patents, trademarks and copyrights are all very different things and there is almost zero overlap in the rule between any one and the other two.

If you want to understand trademarks, you need to sit down and actually learn the trademark rules.

Dominions Son

@docholladay

Example Super Hero. Would the change be considered as a violation of the trademark?


Most likely yes, read the information at the link I posted.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

PS

The issue of "superhero" being generic has already been litigated by Marvel and DC and they won on that issue.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

The issue of "superhero" being generic has already been litigated by Marvel and DC and they won on that issue.


A good lawyer can screw them both over on it, because it was first used in 1913 and neither Marvel or DC were involved in it's use at that time. It was already public domain before they got involved. The fact the US legal system is so stuffed is why they think they won it.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Doesn't matter because it's in a different field and there is no such thing as prior art or a public domain for trademarks.


In the US you can trademark any damn thing you want, the problem comes when you try to stop other people using it and take them to court. Once they can show the usage is public domain or there's prior art involved, they no longer have total protection under the trademark laws.

Disney has to be the biggest US trademark litigators of all time. They trademarked the names of many of their early films, like Snow White, and when they finally went to court the courts found the titles were public domain and they had no valid trademark on the name. The same will happens with other public domain names.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Once they can show the usage is public domain or there's prior art involved, they no longer have total protection under the trademark laws.


This is not correct. There is no such thing as public domain when it comes to trademarks.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

There is no such thing as public domain when it comes to trademarks.


Except you can't enforce a trademark on something that's in the public domain. Sure, you can scare people with threats, but the courts won't rule they owe compensation or insist they cease and desist.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


This is not correct. There is no such thing as public domain when it comes to trademarks.


But doesn't a company lose their trademark when they don't stop people from using the term generically? Like thermos (not capitalized). And aspirin, linoleum, and others.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

But doesn't a company lose their trademark when they don't stop people from using the term generically?


Yes, they do, but that's a very different concept from the public domain as applied to copyrights.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Except you can't enforce a trademark on something that's in the public domain.


Half right, such trademarks are void, but not for the reasons you think.

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