May I?

One of the things I need to be concerned about that most SF writers don’t with most of their stories is that The Eternity Plague takes place in real places on a real planet–earth. Can I use the names of these real places–not just cities, they’re okay, but institutions–specifically the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center inĀ  Dallas.

Another potential problem is that one of my characters quotes song lyrics that are still under copyright. Can I use them under the “fair use” principle, or are the lengths of the quotes too long by some standard I don’t know. “Fair use” doesn’t have a hard-and-fast standard by which it’s measured, which makes sense in a lot of ways. But that also makes it difficult to know when you’ve crossed the line when the line is vague and blurry, not bright.

And when there’s the potential for lawyers to get involved….

So one of my tasks this week is to contact UT-Southwestern. So far, my phone calls and e-mails haven’t been returned, or even acknowledged. Worse comes to worse, I can always change the center’s name and sidestep that problem.

The fair use question is bigger and is probably going to require talking to an intellectual property attorney to get a (written) opinion. Or I could change the lyrics from real ones to made-up ones, but that’s an option I don’t like.

So for now I play mother-may-I.

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