Evidently, Stieg Larsson’s popular trilogy of books The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest have inspired a plethora of title copycats. NINETY-ONE title copycats as per a recent count that have used a similar title since 2010 when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became an international sensation. This raises an interesting and common copyright question regarding the copyright protection vested in the TITLE of a copyrighted work.
Does Copyright Protect The Title of a Work? In the US the short answer is NO. US Copyright Law does not protect titles, names, short phrases or expressions. Even if the title is original or distinctive it cannot be protected by copyright. Entirely different works can have the same or a similar title. This may seem counter intuitive; since, US Copyright Law does protect “original works of authorship” in the form of literary, musical, pictorial or graphic expression. However, titles, names and other short phrases do not meet the requirements for copyright protection. (Some names and short phrases can be protected by trademark).
Back to the 91 title copycats who have recently published books similar to the titles of Larsson’s popular Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. A few of my personal favorites of the copycat titles are: The Girl With the Thistle Tattoo; The Girl With the Sandwich Tattoo; The Girl With the Iron Touch, The Girl with the Golden Parasol; The Girl With the Brave Heart and The Girl With Chipmunk Hands. (All can be purchased on Amazon… target difference age ranges and cover a wide range of topics).
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
For more information see, Circular 34: Copyright Protection Not Available For Names, Titles and Short Phrases published by the US Copyright Office; The Title With The 91 Imitators by H. O’Neill in New York Magazine; earlier posts “How to Write a © copyright notice and why to use it?” and “Copyright Protection Only Costs $35“; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.