Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wants to Use TV Characters in Hypotheticals

Dear Rich: I was writing a hypothetical example for an article, using character names from “The Wire” (relatively obscure: “Cheese” and “Slim”) without referring to the show. I had always assumed this was okay, but then I wondered… Do you think this is an okay practice? Even if the characters are more well-known (e.g., main characters from “Breaking Bad”)? Absolutely! And maybe you can sneak in some references to our favorite non-edgy British TV series. It's difficult to imagine how you could get in trouble using character names in legal, business, or other hypotheticals -- perhaps getting hassled for using the hypothetical in an ad or perhaps for multiple uses of the characters such that it borders on fanfiction -- but in general our imaginings seemed far fetched and "non-threatening" to copyright owners. And for what it's worth, considering the many law school professors who rely on movie and TV show characters for hypotheticals, we feel like the legal establishment is on your side.