1. xAllMadHerex
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    xAllMadHerex New Member

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    Anonymous Memoir? Fair use of lyrics and quotes?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by xAllMadHerex, Jan 10, 2012.

    Hello all, I joined this site because I'm in the process of writing a memoir. I've been thinking about writing it for a while, and finally I've found the motivation to start it for real. Mostly it's for personal reasons, but if I like the way it turns out and I think it's good enough I may try to get it published. Anyway, I have two questions.


    My first is:
    Do I have to get consent from the people I'm talking about if I publish it anonymously?
    The memoir is mainly about two people and the things they put me through and I highly doubt they would consent. I have changed all the names and will consider changing some of the physical descriptions and such if I have to. Though I want to add some real information about my town (such as street names, descriptions of playgrounds, etc.), I don't want to blatantly say where I grew up.


    Second is:
    In layman's terms, what is meant by "Fair Use" of lyrics and quotes?
    Music and books (typically other memoirs) played a huge role in my life growing up, and frequently I found songs and quotes that fit what I was feeling/going through. I would like to use some of what I have collected to set the scene and such (for example interspersing the lyrics of a song as something is going on as if it was playing in the background, or something I had written on my wall). I plan on citing the authors and musicians. Is that ok?

    Thanks in advance for all your help!
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know the legalities about the people. You don't need their permission to legally write about them, but they could potentially sue you. If they're public figures, I believe that the information would have to be provably false and malicious for the suit to be successful. I think that private figures may have more rights. Edited to add: I understand that you're not using their real names, and I don't know what the standards are for sufficiently concealing their identity.

    For fair use, unfortunately I'm pretty sure that you're out of luck. Fair use applies to, for example, academic use, and parody, and criticism, and political commentary, and a lot of things that, as I view it, ensure that people's free speech rights are not unreasonably silenced by other people's copyright rights. As one example, if you were writing a thesis about the influence of heavy metal on the attitudes of teenagers, or the influence of classic poets on heavy metal lyrics, or something of the sort, then you could get away with quoting quite a lot of lyrics, as long as those lyrics were relevant to your point.

    But I don't think that your memoir would qualify under any of the classic fair use grounds. You could certainly mention the titles of the songs and their authors, but I don't believe that you could legally use the lyrics.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, if they're not public figures... you can't hide behind anonymity, since your publisher will know who you are... and anyone who knows you and/or those you're writing about will no doubt be able to tell who the author is, as well...

    sounds like you're trying to get back at some you have a grudge against, which is a recipe for disaster... you can be sued for all you own or ever will own, if you take this path... it won't matter if you change names, since it's a memoir and thus about real events that can be identified and thus lead readers who know you and your foes to figure out who's who...

    all you have to do is go here www.copyright.gov and look it up... basically, it says you can't use quotes or lyrics without the copyright owner's permission, unless what you're writing is a review, or scholastic work, or any of the other listed uses... it does not apply to memoirs, period...


    not without permission... citing isn't good enough...

    study up on the business end of being a writer on the copyright site... and when in doubt, consult a literary attorney, not fellow members of writing sites who won't know the finer points of the law...
     
  4. xAllMadHerex
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    xAllMadHerex New Member

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    Chickenfreak - thanks for the insight into fair use, you put it in a way that makes it understandable. I guess for the ones I really want to use I'll try to contact the artists... most of them aren't mainstream and might be willing to let me use them. It's worth a try.

    mammamaia - It's kind of sad that you'd immediately think that writing a memoir is about getting revenge. It's far from it. It's a cautionary tale for people who are in the same situation (and maybe to let other people who are in the same situation that they're not alone and can get through it). One thing about abuse that seems to boggle most people is how we stay with the abuser. This memoir shows how it's possible. I loved (and still love) both of these men, despite what they've done to me. Truthfully, if it ever does get published the last thing I want is for anyone I knew (or know) to read it. I don't want anyone to get hurt over it. First and foremost this memoir is being written for me... I want to solidify what I've learned and write so I can remember everything as my memory's getting bad. It's to show that despite everything I regret nothing; everything that happened made me the strong person I am today, and if I had a chance to go back and change it I wouldn't.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry for the misunderstanding, but i didn't just assume that, only said that's what it sounds like from what you wrote... and the sad fact is that many who write memoirs about the bad things that were done to them by others do want exactly that... so it's a normal thing to expect... yes, that's sad, but only because it's so often true...

    as for your motivation, you're right in writing it for yourself... it's a very useful catharsis that helps people to deal with the reality of their experiences and thus be able to 'put them away' and go on with their lives...

    unfortunately, it's too hard for most who've undergone traumatic times in their lives to distance themselves from the pain and sorrow in order to write in a way that total strangers will want to pay to read it, so publishers don't find most personal memoirs publishable or marketable... the good news is that with self/e-publishing being so easy today, if these folks want to see their stories in book form, whether or not anyone buys them, it's doable...

    i wish you a total recovery from the abuse and hope writing this book will accomplish what you want it to... as for using quotations and lyrics, that's bound to cost you some money... for the lyrics, it could be very big money!... so be sure to consult a literary attorney on this and also on the issue of legal liability if your abusers can be identified by anyone who knows you or them... this is VERY IMPORTANT, if you don't want to add legal abuse to their other mistreatment of you...

    love and healing hugs, maia
     

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