Saturday, August 06, 2005

Drive In ponders...

Was talked by the girls into taking them to a Drive-In last night. Dozed intermittently through the Dukes of Hazzard, missing, as far as I could tell, nothing important in a film in which everything seemed obvious except its reason for existing in the first place, and was wide awake for W.Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, most of which I really enjoyed.

It seemed like a collision between three films: a remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,a film of Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a third film, which felt increasingly familiar until the final image, when I remembered where I'd sort-of seen it before -- from the iconic horror actor [Christopher Lee, not Vincent Price] as the father to the snow that isn't snow at the end. I loved all the Dahl, loved most of the Burton-doing-Dahl, but felt all the bits that seemed to have wandered from the third movie (a strange sort of Burton-does-Burton-lite I kept wanting to call Edward Candyhands) were simply out of place in this story. Dahl wrote Charlie's story, and that's the film Burton begins with, but it hiccups in the middle of the film and turns into Wonka's story (he's now the one who learns something and changes, not Charlie, after all), which felt a bit like watching a version of Cinderella in which Cinders winds up skipping the ball in order to sort out the emotional trauma of her Fairy Godmother. (Hmm. That might be fun, actually.)

Jonathan Carroll (one of my favourite living authors, and a man with a website filled with marvels and goodies -- just sent me this -- -- absolutely fascinating pavement art. And from Jonathan's blog I learned about -- a blog that keeps track of the misuse of Chinese characters in, well mostly Tattoos -- sort of the opposite of There is a certain perverse joy in knowing that the characters in someone's lovely tattoo actually mean hand warmer and air conditioner...

Hey Neil, got a question. A couple of days ago I was in Barnes & Noble and there was a book on the table called "Smoke & Mirrors" but it wasn't your book. How can two books have the same title? Aren't there copyrights and stuff to keep that from happening? If not, I think I will call my book "War & Peace" :)


I just checked and they have over a dozen books called Smoke and Mirrors. A visit to (to include the long-out-of-print stuff) gave about 25 books. And no, you can't copyright a title.

Here's what the copyright office has to say over its FAQs:

Can I copyright the name of my band?
No. Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under trademark law. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information.

How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.

How do I protect my idea?
Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

Can you call a book "War and Peace"? Sure. You could even call your book "The Bible" if you wanted to. Can you call a book "Guards! Guards!" (now being dramatised weekly on BBC radio 7, in half hour episodes, go to fridays, each episode's up for a week Mm, quite probably (but see below). Can you call a book "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"? Not a hope in hell - at that point you are into a) Trademark Law, and b) you're passing off your work as something it's not and creating confusion in the marketplace -- people would buy your book thinking it was the other.

(By the same logic, if you're doing a photographic history of the Grenadier Guards, and you call it Guards! Guards!, you'll probably be fine. Do a funny fantasy novel and call it Guards! Guards! and Mr Pratchett and all of his lawyers will probably be down on you like a ton of bricks.)