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What's the policy on referring to businesses in one's fiction?

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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-11 06:33 PM
Original message
What's the policy on referring to businesses in one's fiction?
John Updike's A & P is half a century old.

In terms of legality and attribution, how can one refer to real-world businesses or properties in today's fiction? It seems pointless and silly to make up a ton of artificial stores if you're having a scene take place in a strip mall, and it would likewise come across as awkward and gimmicky to omit the names entirely.

Can I, for instance, have my protagonist walk into the 7-11 to buy a soda? Can he stop at a Target to buy a pair of sneakers? Can he drive a Ford or Chevy without having me run afoul of intellectual property laws?


What's the policy? Can you direct me to an online resource that deals with stuff like this in a compact format?


Thanks a bunch! Thanks two bunches, in fact!
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DavidDvorkin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-11 06:51 PM
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1. I don't there's a problem with that
as long as you don't say anything negative about those stores.

Using real car names in fiction is common and has been for a long time.
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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-11 07:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. As to the latter, I thought that might be the case.
Cormac McCarthy makes lots of references to brands of cars in his works.

So your thinking is that commercial properties can be used as parts of settings if the writer doesn't make (presumably false) negative claims? That's something of a relief.


Thanks for your answer!
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DavidDvorkin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-11 07:49 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Right
For that matter, companies pay for product placement in movies, and a year or so ago there was a story about a company paying a writer to mention their product in his novel. They won't object to getting that for free!

You just have to avoid something like:

"Joe walked into the 7-Eleven. As always, he was disgusted by the rancid smell, the filthy floor, the equally filthy customers, and the night clerk picking his nose and smearing the boogers on the counter. Nor was he mollified by the absurdly inflated prices."
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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-13-11 10:59 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Incidentally, the 7-11 you've described used to be located at South 5th & Oltorf in Austin TX
Thanks again for the info!
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valerief Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 03:16 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. Instead of the 7-Eleven, you could always rename it the 9-Eleven. nt
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nolabear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-11 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
5. You can use brand names and business names as long as you don't libel them.
But a character can say things about them that you as the author can't claim. You can't use things that are the intellectual property of others without permission unless it's either public domain or is very small. I coauld say my character sang "Chapel of Love" (which he did) without permission but can't quote lyrics (which I did) without permission (which I got). If you wrote out a 7-11 jingle whomever holds the rights has to give you permission.
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