Things Fall Apart (c)

14 Sep

I liked the story of Achebe refusing to allow 50 Cent to buy “Things Fall Apart” , because it showed a clashing of egos, and drew attention to a truly great novel. Like when the Beckhams brought Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” back to popularity (now the most popular book in the UK), it’s good when we’re reminded of books every now and then. Good publicity all round, and a slight embarrassment of an arrogant star. All good.

Then a lot of people started asking how, when the title comes from a line of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” , Achebe had copyrighted it in the first place. Or pondered what Achebe would have done if Yeats had denied him the right. There are numerous instances of writers taking titles from lines of poetry, and I would hate for this to become a highly litigious field (I was astonished to learn yesterday that even the quoting of poetry in reviews is apparently a taboo ).

More importantly though, someone (the intelligent @datadivajf) mentioned to me on Twitter that one can’t copyright a title. Being no expert, I consulted the Great Google (oh, and a copyright lawyer), and came up with the short answer of: no, you can’t. And it makes sense, really. “Things fall apart” is a fairly common phrase, and applies in numerous situations. It’s highly unlikely that 50 Cent’s movie would in any way confuse audiences, or draw audiences away from Achebe.

Whatever you do, don’t tell Achebe – perhaps he should have taken that million after all. Now, I’m sure that his (and Fiddy’s) lawyers know a great deal more than me, but it does strike me as odd that this title debacle didn’t extend to the Roots’ album “Things Fall Apart” . Or Zomby’s “Things Fall Apart” . In fact, both “The West Wing”  and “Ugly Betty”  had episodes entitled “Things Fall Apart”

Curiouser and curiouser. I hope someone with more understanding of the legalities involved will set me straight.

(incidentally it would seem no one’s told IMDB yet that the movie changed its name )


One Response to “Things Fall Apart (c)”

  1. Linette Lintvelt September 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Good Morning Karen

    Just been reading OTHER PEOPLE SUCK on your blog. Well worded and incredibly honest. Well done.


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