Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Trademark and Mailbag

First of all, if you're in the US, you may want to read this -- -- and then, if you're interested, contact your Senator. (Today, I'm afraid.)

Writers of fiction and nonfiction inevitably incorporate trademarks into their work, sometimes to comment on the particular business using the trademark, but frequently the use is merely incidental to the nonfiction or fiction writer's story ("Tom went to a McDonald's, had a Coke, and waited for the Harley to arrive.").
Just as fair use provisions of copyright law permit writers to make certain uses of copyrighted works in their own works, so do fair use and related provisions of trademark law permit writers to use trademarks in their works. One of the important protections for writers using others' trademarks is section 43(c)(4)(B) of the Lanham Act, which excludes noncommercial and news reporting uses from several types of liability under trademark law. The new law would weaken these protections, exposing writers to greater potential liability for their use of trademarks.

A couple of the CBLDF cases in the last few years have been where corporations felt that comics creators had infringed their trademarks, even for purposes of parody or comment (for example , which revolved around this parodic image...)

...and speaking as someone who would like people to exist in a world in which trademarked products can be mentioned in fiction, I'm concerned.

A few from the mailbag...

On the subject of weird underground maps, have you come across the anagram one?
It puts a whole new complexion on trips across London :-) With the usual grovelling fan-girl thanks for writing stories I want to read...!Helen


Hi Neil,Regarding the musician's tube-map: of course you know this already, but in 1992 artist Simon Patterson made a similar alternative tube map (replacing the station names with those of footballers, philosophers, saints and actors). It's in the tate-modern.
cheers Ritske


You may be interested to know that you're up for a blog award. A life time achievement award, even.

Or not.

It's an honourjusttobenominated. And in such illustrious company.

Hey, Neil. Facebook says that you're on the faculty of UChicago. Is that you or just someone else with the same name and using your picture?Also, are you ever going to write a story around that Sandman line about a man inheriting a library card to the library of Alexandria? I'd love to read about it and I know I'm not alone.

Well, I suppose technically I'm a
University of Chicago Presidential Fellow in the Arts from last year, but no, I don't have a Facebook account.

And one day I may, or the story might just live in people's heads and slowly grow itself.

Hello Mr. Neil,First I would like to say I enjoy every bit of your work I've ever encountered. A question: My best husband in the world got me Mirrormask for Valentine's Day and we just got done watching and I want to know would you mind if I made myself a Really Useful Book? I wouldn't sell it or anything (and I think to be Really Useful the book has to be personal), it would just be for me and maybe my kids someday. Do you mind? Thank you for everything, Rebecca

Anything anyone wants to make for themselves is always fine. (There's only a problem when you start trying to make things for sale.)

Incidentally, Dark Horse Books made Really Useful Books -- you can see one at along with MirrorMask figurines and suchlike)

Hi Neil,With the recents announcements about Absolute Sandman, I imagine materials will becompiled or created soon for these volumes. Considering that much of your readership (including myself) can probably consider themselves completists in that they seek out all your work, I figured I'd chime in to ask about possibly retaining the nifty extras (a full script of yours) & introductions from the various existing trade editions. Also any thoughts as to what extras you'd like to have included?Sincerly,Yair

I don't think the extras in the trade paperbacks wil be repeated in the Absolute Sandman volumes, mostly because I'd assume people probably have the books with the introductions in. We're looking at putting new stuff in, and we're not yet sure what it's going to be -- I'm going to try and find things like the original proposal and notes, perhaps the script to Sandman #1 for the first volume. Right now Danny Vozzo is recolouring the first 18 issues of Sandman to take advantage of modern printing techniques and to fix things we weren't happy with at the time.

It's going to be a four book set, by the way, of about 600 pages per book, and I believe they'll come out over a couple of years.

Neil,I am currently writing an essay on your Fairyland in _The Books of Magic_ as compared to Tolkien's ideals in "On Fairy-Stories" for the upcoming issue of ImageText about your works. I wanted to cite the speech you gave at Mythcon 35 (reprinted in Mythprint, October 2004), but have been unable to locate a copy, and have only read the speech online (at the Mythopoeic Society's site). I emailed the Mythprint editor, but they referred me back to you, as you have the rights (and said that you may have the speech up online). I really only need the title of the speech and the correct place from which to cite it. Do you happen to know the title, issue number, and page numbers for the reprint in Mythprint? That would probably work. Thanks in advance for your time and help. Sincerely,Brandon W. Hawk

No idea about the Mythprint details. But the online version of the speech is up at (It's the one where I talk about C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Chesterton.)

As a fan of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, I'm pretty sure I know C.S. Lewis' reasoning behind dropping Susan at the end of the series. (I know that much about the man's view of Christianity and humanity - though I also Googled to make sure). But after hearing about your story "The Problem of Susan" I had to read it. Unfortunately, it's one of your stories I don't get. Normally this doesn't bother me too much - I get less and less these days it seems. And regardless I've found your work entertaining since Sandman. (A Quibble: in "Sandman: Ramadan" you showed modern Baghdad almost entirely destroyed. It wasn't and is doing pretty well considering.) But if you could summarize what you meant I would be grateful. Though not quite as grateful if you can get a book out this summer...CPT Eric Lehmann

Elvis Costello once said words to the effect of "People ask me to explain the songs. If I could have said it in different words, I would have written a different song," and I know what he means. But I talk about "The Problem of Susan" a little in the Onion interview out-takes at, and it may help. (Just as the Mythopoeic Speech I linked to above may help. Or not.)

It's worth remembering that Ramadan was written and drawn in 1992, after the Gulf War, not during the current events, and that it was drawn back in the days before Craig Russell could simply have done a Google Image search for Baghdad. I think he did a pretty good job, considering.