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Faster than a speeding trademark

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So I'm working on a picture book about an ordinary penguin who fancies himself a superhero.  I want to start off with the phrase "Faster than a speeding herring, more adorable than a purring kitten, able to leap small boulders at a single bound."  Something to that effect.  It's meant to evoke the opening lines of an old Superman comic, but I worry that I'd be treading on some sort of trademark/copyright issues.  My understanding of fair use is a bit blurry and possibly outdated, but would that qualify as parody an thus be allowed?

A cursory internet search shows the trademark for "Faster than a speeding bullet" was cancelled in 1995.
#1 - May 03, 2017, 04:03 PM

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It might be worth posting this question on the Ask A Lawyer thread on these boards.
#2 - May 03, 2017, 04:23 PM
My Australia - National Library of Australia (April 2018)
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink (August 2018)

www.juliemurphybooks.com

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It might be worth posting this question on the Ask A Lawyer thread on these boards.


I had originally intended to post there, but I can't seem to find the board anymore, possibly because my SCBWI membership has temporarily lapsed..   :shrug
#3 - May 04, 2017, 03:30 PM

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I don't see your SCBWI stars so yes, the lapse in membership means that area is not accessible. Maybe the Authors Guild has some statements about this?

If you are using their entire sentence, but only substituting a couple of nouns to fit your story, that looks likes plagiarism and copyright infringement, but I'm not a lawyer.

Also, if something is a cliché "faster than a speeding bullet" then it's part of the culture and not a copyright violation, but you'd want your own take on it. Clichés are good as a short cut but you want your language to be fresh.

These are just a couple of rambly thoughts.

Vijaya
#4 - May 04, 2017, 06:56 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Are you parodying Superman or superheroes in general in the entire book? If so, it should be fine.

I'd be surprised if other works hadn't done this. I know there have been versions of "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's..." without the opening phrases.

Faster than a speeding bullet is listed as a common idiom, but the rest may not be. If you can, consult an attorney to double check.
#5 - May 08, 2017, 11:03 AM

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Are you parodying Superman or superheroes in general in the entire book? If so, it should be fine.

I'm basically playing off the style of old superhero comics, but the main character isn't actually a superhero at all.   

I'm still in the first draft of the story, so I'll play with it to see if there's a different way of conveying the atmosphere without causing legal issues. 
#6 - May 08, 2017, 04:45 PM

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Isn't anyone else old enough to remember the kid's TV show, The Electric Company?  Letterman was faster than a rolling "O," stronger than silent "e," and able to leap capital "T" in a single bound! (I didn't know till today, when I looked it up, that Joan Rivers and Gene Wilder were the voices for those clips.)
I wouldn't worry if I were you. Parody is protected by the law.
See:
http://www.mybrilliantmistakes.com/2009/03/faster-than-a-rolling-o-stronger-than-silent-e-able-to-leap-capital-t-in-a-single-bound-its-a-word-its-a-plan-its-letterman/
#7 - May 09, 2017, 07:16 AM

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Sophie: This is probably irrelevant, but I wrote a story in the 90's about an ostrich who only discovered he was a bird by studying his physical anatomy and noticed that humans soared through the sky in a "robotic flying tin".
I bet he'd love to meet your penguin!
#8 - May 12, 2017, 12:02 PM

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