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Blog posts cannot substitute for legal advice. If the topics discussed in this post are relevant to a real case you have, please consult an attorney.
Note: This post was written almost two weeks ago, but last Thursday night, this topic came up again with my friend, Stephen Radney-MacFarland. It’s an issue that just won’t die, especially in the gaming industry because of WotC’s ridiculous OGL claims.
I read two online posts in as many days making a persistent claim that continues to astound and annoy me. One article here.
Let me make this clear once again: You can’t copyright a single word.
Yeah, that even includes supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The music can be copyrighted, and the lyrics as a whole can be copyrighted, but not that one word. You may trademark a single word, but the protection for trademarks is different. There’s a lot more flexibility when it comes to using a word that’s trademarked.
I completely understand that you don’t understand copyright law. That’s no crime; it’s complicated. However, if you don’t, you should be asking questions, not making authoritative statements on the issue. I don’t know the first thing about performing brain surgery. I’m not ashamed of that, nor should I be, but the day I give advice on how to perform it, please call me out for those ignorant ramblings.
If you’re making an argument relying on the copyrightability of a single word, name, or title, your argument is legally and logically invalid. If your conclusion is correct anyway, it’s mere coincidence.
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