Product placement in literature

I’ve been reading the “Dresden Files” and noticed Harry’s fondness for Coke. I know if you were to have it on a TV show or movie, you need permission from Coca-Cola or otherwise you blur it out, tape, etc. it out. What about books and literature such as poems? Shouldn’t the same rule apply regardless of medium?

Your assumption is wrong. There is no requirement to get permission to show a trademarked product in literature or in films or TV. Otherwise, it’d be impossible to shoot anything live on a city street (the cars alone are different makes and models).

Do you think Morgan Spurlock got McDonald’s approval for Supersize Me?

Product placement is the TV or movie producers going to a company and saying, “If you pay us money, we’ll put your product in our film.” If the company refuses, the producers find a different company with a similar product. It’s a way of financing.

But if you don’t have to ask permission, and a company can’t refuse to let you use their products. Free speech trumps trademark law.

Some TV shows do blur out names, but only because they couldn’t get the money from Coke and want to spite them.

I should add that, since you don’t need to ask permission for movies and TV, you also don’t have to ask permission for written literature.

It’s not spite. They may wish to get sponsorship from Mountain Dew at some point in time and it will be hard to do if a star is wearing a Coke shirt.

Note that you DO need to get permission if you quote song lyrics, and that it can be quite expensive and/or difficult.

On a related note, I have a copy of the paperback version of Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins, published in 1972. It has a tear-out ad for a subscription to Sports Illustrated–28 weeks for $4.89. (Note that this ad is part of the published volume, it’s not a bookmark.) I’ve seen other books with cigarette ads as part of the book, too.

I’m not sure how true this is, but I remember reading somewhere that Terry Pratchett was absolutely livid with the publishers of his translated novels in Germany because they had inserted ads for canned soup into the text without telling him.

Not really what you’re asking in the OP, but definitely product placement in literature.

Shouldn’t that be the other way around, since literature predates TV and Radio?

Sure, but the question was “Since you need permission for radio and TV, how does it work for books?” The initial premise was false; showing that answers the question, not matter what the chronological order was.

I don’t think so – the publishers simply placed an ad part-way through the novel, which is no different than a commercial break in a TV programme. It clearly wasn’t part of the text of the novel.

Actual product placement would be more like what Ian Fleming did in his novels, where he had James Bond consulting his Rolex Oyster watch before lighting up with his rolled gold Dunhill cigarette lighter between sips of Red Label lager.

One of the things I love about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories is that he doesn’t use existing brands, but makes them up.

Archie drives a Heron sedan.
Wolfe drinks Remmers beer
Locks are Bermats
Archie’s gun is a Marley
…and so on.

Robert Goldsborough, continuing the series, continued the tradition. Fade to Black featured a soft drink called Cherokee.

But if you’re not familiar with the brands, you won’t even know it was product placement. I read at least a dozen of Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury novels before I realized that Jury’s favorite libation, Old Peculier, was an actual beer. I just thought it was a funny name that Grimes made up until I saw another author post about it on Facebook.