Re: RARA-AVIS: Double your title

pabergin (
Sun, 16 May 1999 11:26:14 -0400 Bill Hagen:
<<But, to my question. The title is from a Dylan Thomas poem, "A Refusal to
Mourn a Child's Death by Fire" (think that's it). Exactly ten years later
(1979), Robert Cormier--a pretty good author in his own right--used the
title for a novel in which a school bus full of kids are held as hostages
(if memory serves). His novel acknowledges the Dylan Thomas estate's
permission to quote from the poem.>>

Several people have already pointed out that you cannot copyright a title.
For confirmation, one need look no further than this year's Shamus nominees.
Jamie Katz' nominated first novel is titled Dead Low Tide, which title was
first used by John D. MacDonald in 1953.

As far as acknowledgement/permission to use a phrase that has appeared
before is concerned, Block would be under no constraint to acknowledge the
source of After The First Death -- if indeed he cribbed it from the Thomas
poem -- because it is not so unique a phrase as to cause the reader to
immediately think of the earlier work.

If he used the whole line ("After the first death, there is no other.") as
an epigraph, acknowledgement should be made -- and perhaps permission
sought, if the line were still protected by the copyright laws. The same
goes for any textual reference that quotes the earlier work.

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