Monday, July 12, 2010

When dolls appear in books

Dear Rich: I am an author and intending to write a fictional book about a favorite line of dolls.  I need to know if I must get permission from this company before stepping foot into the venture. Can we presume you're talking about a line of dolls that's currently available for sale? If so, the  short answer is that if your book is "about" the dolls - that is they are the main characters and the plot revolves around the them -- you will likely get hassled unless you have permission. And the Dear Rich Staff thinks its unlikely you will get permission.  Chances are that a large toy/doll company is not going to want to place its precious cargo in the hands of someone who may not portray the little figurines in a flattering commercial light, who may compete with their own books, or who may hinder the company's chances at developing a fictional series.)If the dolls are more incidental to the story line - for example, it's the coming-of-age story about a young girl recovering from a family loss who fantasizes about the erotic origins of a Barbie doll - then you're probably fine. (Wait a second, with that plot, maybe you're not fine!) But you get the idea: the dolls owners have less legal standing if you're incidentally exploiting the copyright and trademark protected characters. Also, keep in mind that the rules are different if someone wants to make a movie out of your book. In that case, the likeness of the dolls will appear and permission is required -- that's why Mr. Potato Head's consent is required to appear in Toy Story 3.