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I was wondering about if I could use the name of the fictional character Magneto in the scifi book I'm writing. There is no direct connection between the Marvel/DC universe and my book. Instead, I was going to have a character be genetically modified to produce the "Magneto" protein, which lets them detect magnetism. Is it okay in this case because I'm using it in a different context, like as a parody? I'm actually going off of a discovery of a magnetism sensing protein where journalists referred to it as that. Its not nearly as important as the first thing, but I was also wondering if I could mention some other scifi/superhero thing in a new context, like describing a laser weapon as being "like a Star Wars laser blaster" or something, again being different in its details and context (I made a point to describe a real world laser that can theoretically operate at very high powers minus a few technical problems).

  • I took a look at that, and I've also taken a look at fair use law. Could the transformative factor basically work here, since I would say I'm creating new aesthetics, insights, information and understandings, or at least I could argue that. – user18361 Mar 25 '16 at 3:24
  • Is it possible for you to change it up slightly? Magnetico, for instance? – Abs Mar 27 '16 at 19:58
  • @Abs - that specific choice won't help. I have a magnetic mattress pad made by Magnetico, a Canadian company. LOL – Joe Mar 30 '16 at 6:57
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    @Joe Right, but at least it's not the name of a character who can control metal. Very similar. "lets them detect magnetism" quoted from above. Sounds just like the movie. At least if the character was named after a mattress, people wouldn't think he stole the name. – Abs Mar 30 '16 at 12:31
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You're probably safe in how you are using these references, however you have to be the judge of how much you are using and how you want your audience to view your work. Parody is fine, and is acceptable to the farthest extent as it is seen as being almost satirical and not taking away or competing with the original work, but highlighting and referencing it. I found this helpful article that I think probably describes your question best and should help you determine whether these references are acceptable or not.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-rule-copyright-material-30100.html

As a quick note, it may also be helpful to review the use of copyright law under the people you reference. Steven Spielberg for instance is notorious for legally protecting his work and going after things he considers rip offs, so be careful, just because it is well known doesn't necessarily mean it will be well received by the original source.

My last personal recommendation is aside from the "Magneto" reference which I thought was really clever and interesting, unless you are writing a parody it is always better to try and describe it as best you can instead of referencing it. It'll grow your skills in descriptive writing, and will help your reader a lot as a reference can be very distracting from the rest of the narrative.

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I would hesitate to use the name if there any sort of powers associated with it. It's one thing to say a guy is a big as the Hulk, it's another to make him have super strength and be called that.

I was going to suggest Magneton, but that's apparently a Pokemon. But still, much less likely to cause issues.

Blasters are generic. "Lightsabers" are copyrighted. You can have laser beam swords, just not that term. Again, one reference like "he looked like a Boba Fett reject" is fine. But not if you're going to use the term/item/name repeatedly.

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According to this site proteins are usually named ending in '-in', so maybe something like "magnetin" might work?

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