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Are names of characters copyrighted by authors? For example, the character "Eragon" from the Inheritance Cycle series, or a name that you've generated using an online name generator that you'd like to use (Which, could be copyrighted if names of characters are copyrighted by authors.)

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See this question in meta: Are legal questions on-topic here? – Neil Fein Nov 20 '10 at 20:16
@neilfein: That question hasn't generated much in the way of response - perhaps time for the legal tag wiki to be generated with the suggested disclaimers from the referenced meta question? – Zayne S Halsall Nov 20 '10 at 21:40
@Zayne - I generated the legal tag at the same time I typed my comment, I think. In terms of the tag wiki, don't you need to have written or answered several questions with the tag in question before working on it? (That's probably another question for meta.) – Neil Fein Nov 21 '10 at 3:25
Why would you want to use the name of a character that's well enough known for anyone to say "hey, isn't that the name of the guy in. . ."? I think it would be confusing for readers. -- not really a response, thus a comment. – foggyone Nov 25 '10 at 1:04
Please edit your question to include the jurisdiction that concerns you as laws vary from place to place. – msanford Mar 24 '11 at 20:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

IANAL disclaimer but generally character names themselves cannot be copyrighted. They may be trademarked but only if the literary work/movie/or a related product were named after the character. So, trademark would only come into play for secondary characters in widely merchandised works. In theory you'd be completely safe as long as your characters aren't similar to characters of the same name, and they aren't widely known characters.

There's an interesting essay here. Here is one of the key points respecting copyright:


to warrant copyright protection, a fictional character must be specifically described and fully developed. At times overcoming this "description hurdle" may be difficult to achieve. This is because some courts are very skeptical of protecting "word portraits" since they are unable to "see" the differences between one fictional character and another.

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+1 for IANAL reference. – Zayne S Halsall Nov 20 '10 at 21:37
I hope Apple never use that term... – erikric Nov 22 '10 at 13:54
"They may be trademarked but only if the literary work/movie/or a related product were named after the character." --or is intended to be used. You can trademark a name you aren't using yet but unlike "automatic" copyright and "implied" trademark on existing products, this has to be done proactively, then used and defended proactively. Most of companies trademark character names from their franchises with intention to sublicense them - e.g. to toy makers, writers of spin-offs etc. – SF. May 2 at 11:09

I would only think that the trademark rule would apply if the character's name was imperative to the plot of the story. For example, if someone were to write a novel about the comic book character "The Flash."

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