Legally can you name characters after songs (poems, etc.) so long as those characters don't purport to affiliated w/ the song or the song writer/author?

A similar question here asks the opposite question and the answer seems to be pretty encouraging that (in my case) a song would fail to properly describe the character of it's namesake such that it would be held up in court.

  • possible duplicate of Are Names of Characters Copyrighted by Authors?
    – Dan Hanly
    Dec 18, 2013 at 11:20
  • 2
    Is the character going to be clearly related to the song or based on it? There may be differences between having a character named "Jacky Paper" (just the name is alike), and a boy named "Jackie Paper" who has an imaginary dragon friend (a clear reference), and an adult "Dr. Paper" who turns out to have adventured with Puff the Magic Dragon as a child.
    – Standback
    Dec 18, 2013 at 14:55
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    Yeah, perfect clarification... My intent is that the character would be absolutely unrelated and would not try to pose as the character from the song, but rather the character needs an alias and she picked one from a song.
    – Rikon
    Dec 19, 2013 at 14:47

2 Answers 2


In the question you've linked to, it discussed in depth about how copyright works with characters. Surely your question is answered there? Regardless of the medium, the same applies. The key point is

a fictional character must be specifically described and fully developed

This is nigh-on impossible to achieve in a song, given the limited length.
IANAL but I think you'll be safe.

  • 2
    Cool thanks, that's what I got out of it too, but I'm somewhat new to this so last thing I wanted to do was have some legal mess out of the gate.
    – Rikon
    Dec 18, 2013 at 13:38
  • 1
    No worries, glad I could help clarify.
    – Dan Hanly
    Dec 18, 2013 at 15:15

I'm not a lawyer but I don't believe it is as clear cut as you believe. Music copyright is far tougher than literature.

Example 1. Your character's name is Jack. He owns a convenience store on the edge of town. He is a suspected paedophile. One day he is found dead in his store. - You could well be in trouble. Not only are there too many coincidences but you've 'damaged' another work. (Google: 'Grocer Jack').

Example 2. Your character's name is Norma Jean. It is revealed the character does not know who her father is but her mother has admitted she was conceived in the woods after an Elton John concert. - This is okay for two reasons: you have stated that your character is not the subject of the song. (2) "Norma Jean" is a real person who could be defined as a celebrity. (Google:"Candle in the wind."

Example 3. Your character's name is 'Lucy' or 'Alice'. She is attracted by the glamour of the music industry. In the end she is unable to cope with the culture and dies from an LSD overdose. - You're in trouble. Your entire story is a rip-off of Beatles song.

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