Westland, MI asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Libel & Slander for Michigan

Q: Can you use names, people, places and brands in a book?

I am writing a book about events in the 1970s. The book will be about a journey through the 1970s from someone who lived through it. It will be facts and events for each year with some experience from the narrator.

Here is an example excerpt:

"October 1, 1971 - Opening of Walt Disney World – A Dream Realized

The arrival of autumn in 1971 brought with it an event that would capture the imaginations of children and adults alike across the nation – the opening of Walt Disney World. For Sam, who had grown up cherishing the magic of Disney movies and characters, the announcement of the park's opening was like a dream turning into reality.

Can I mention brands in a book like in this example?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Yes, you can mention brands, names, people, and places in your book, especially when discussing historical events and real-world entities as part of a non-fiction narrative or a work of fiction based in a real historical context. In your example, referencing Walt Disney World as part of a historical account of its opening in 1971 is generally acceptable.

However, it's important to be mindful of how these references are used. Avoid portraying brands, people, or entities in a defamatory or misleading manner, as this could raise legal issues. When discussing real people or specific products, ensure that the information is accurate and presented in a contextually appropriate manner.

In cases where you're providing detailed accounts or opinions on specific brands or people, it's wise to ensure that your statements are either factual or clearly presented as personal opinions or fictional accounts. This approach helps in minimizing the risk of legal challenges such as defamation or trademark infringement.

If you're planning to include potentially sensitive content about real brands or people, consulting with a legal professional in intellectual property and media law might be beneficial. They can provide guidance on the legal nuances of using real-world references in your work.

Remember, your book should reflect a balance between creative expression and respect for the legal rights of the entities and individuals you mention. Each reference should be considered carefully to maintain this balance.

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