Thứ Năm, 23 tháng 11, 2017

Can you copyright your name?

BY Juna Mèo No comments

That does not serve a public interest, so no, copyright law does not support that.

Consider: copyrighting names would mean that people that are charged with ethical violations, crimes, or just dirty play could not be discussed in the news. Exxon, for instance, could just copyright their name and then prohibit any news media from discussing them by name.

Copyright only protects “creative works”, such as books, news articles, TV shows, movies, etc. While it does protect invented elements, such as characters, it is not so granular that names are protected. Thus, I could write a book about a dentist from Colorado Springs whose name was Harry Potter or James Bond. Names are not really considered all that unique, after all, I happen to know that there are 22 other Todd Gardiners in the United States (and I have met seven of them).

Even if I was to write an article about JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter, I could certainly do so as non-fiction, making a scholarly or newsworthy report on the character (but not use this character in my own fiction, obviously).

So, because you would be infringing on the rights of people who share your name, infringing unfairly on free speech rights of press and the public, interfering with the public interest to discuss things by their name, and because a name is not a “creative work” under copyright law, you cannot get copyright protections for use of your name.

Similarly, you might register a Trademark for your name. But the rules for trademark registration require use in commerce (such as a brand name), and the restrictions only prohibit competing use in commerce. I can still say “Microsoft” or “Starbucks”, even though they are trademarked. I just can’t name a business with these names unless it is in a different class of business (e.g. Starbuck’s Plumbing would be legal).
The units of language: symbols, letters, numbers, words, common phrases, and the names of objects/people/places are all very hard to restrict because we are using them to communicate with each other.

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