Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Book titles and copyright

Did you know that you cannot copyright the name of a book?

Many writers (and publishers) worry that someone else will "steal" their name, one they've worked so hard to come up with. But the fact is, you simply have no power over someone else, down the road, using the name of your book or story. But here is the exception:

Intellectual property law does not protect titles as easily or as comprehensively as it protects the contents of a literary work. Single titles - the title of a particular work - are not protected by copyright law and may only be protected by unfair competition law and possibly trademark law if the publisher can demonstrate that the title has acquired secondary meaning. 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. (from