Can they do that?

By Jim Trelease

In May of 2008, Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna published a book with the same title as my 1992 story anthology, Read All About It! I was soon receiving emails from various readers questioning the legality of usurping another book's title. Allow me to explain.

You cannot copyright a book title—common words cannot be trademarked or copyrighted. Thus the word "tissue" is not copyrightable but Kleenex is.

At last count, there were at least eight other book titles listed at Amazon that included the words "Read All About It," a reference to the shouts of street venders when newspapers were sold on busy commercial streets.

Having established that nothing has been "stolen" in using another book's title, I might add it is less than wise to do so because of the easy confusion when ordering said title. Book wholesalers and warehouses have enough problems without adding multiple copies of the same title by different authors.

An after-thought: Considering the less than complimentary things I have written about the Bush administration's education policies in both the sixth edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook and here at my Web site, I would think the Bushes would have wanted to avoid any connection between their product and mine. Or maybe they left the job of vetting the title to the same people who were supposed to find those weapons of mass destruction. Who knows? In any case, I hold no grudge and wish them well. They've worked hard at lifting the literary value of the family name in difficult times and circumstances.

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