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  1. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    Cool Idea, Copyright Issue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nobeler Than Lettuce, Apr 6, 2010.

    Recently I've been toying around with my novel. Trying to get some interesting hooks that I can play with throughout the book. I'm not saying I'm an uncreative bastard, but my latest one treads a line that I'd rather not ever cross, plagiarism.

    For example, I've since included quotes, always said during character's dialogue (to avoid the issue that I'm directly stealing the lines to make my own prose sound better) that references songs. The latest one breaks that rule a little. Let me show you what I mean.

    "I love this town, but it ain't the same."
    His ski mask ripped as he was putting it on.

    This is from a song by Iron and Wine, a group popular with the audience I'm targeting. As are many others. In fact, the working title of the novel itself is "Wish You Were Here". Am I an unscrupulous scoundrel? At this point it would be easy to remove references made, which is why I'm asking for your opinions.
     
  2. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Some authors, like Koontz, put song quote at the beginning of each chapter or section of the book. Something that ties into the meaning of the story. So it's not directly in the story itself, but still there for the audience. Sometimes it's charming. Other times it's annoying.

    In those cases, quoting one or two lines and indicating the singer/song is generally fair use.

    If that helps any.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    No, it isn't.


    There is no fair usage in fiction. If you want to quote a song, then you need to get permission from the copyright holder. This is regardless of the context of the quote. And they will usually charge for the use.
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Although titles of songs are not copyrighted, so your potential novel title is alright in copyright terms.
     
  5. Rechar
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    Rechar Member

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    Common sense and copyright, like a couple after 50 years of marriage who just totally ignore each other.

    Titles are so common they can't be copyrighted, so you can use those all you like. As for quoting song lines, my heart says its fine.

    However its a grey area, most people play safe (spent a few minutes on google and didn't find any specific cases) and get permission rather than argue in court about relevancy to the story, whether a single line from lyrics without musical accompaniment falls under copyright, fair use etc etc.

    End of the day a few lines don't make or break a story, so just change them and avoid the issue entirely. :)
     
  6. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you'd hear it on the street, then it's fine. That particular example is something that anyone would say - if there's no reference to the singer, then they'd have to prove that you were quoting them. It's still a good idea to get permission, or avoid any references to them whatsoever.
     
  7. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it identifiable in the context you're using though, it is best to somehow give credit to the author of the song lyrics.

    Iron and Wine is a great band, by the way ;)
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    All of this advice to the tune of, "Prove that I stole your riff or line!" is making me shake my head.

    And Gallow, hello! All songs can be heard "on the street." Cars drive by, blasting their radios, on every street of every city and town of every country on the planet. How does this make it Ok to just sample the lines of copywrited music without permission?

    This is, without a doubt, a subject where erring on the side of caution is going to be the rule. A donkey-stubborn attitude that proclaims, "Prove it! Prove I didn't just make that up myself," is foolhardy.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The music industry is particulary litigious. Don't use lyrics without permission, period.
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Seconded (though I believe that was the gist of my earlier post).

    Don't listen to people who say "Oh, it will be alright." It won't. The law is the law, and the music industry will rape you with it if you breach their copyright.
     
  11. Nonnie
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    Nonnie Contributing Member

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    Better to ask forgiveness than permission. . .
     
  12. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    What, when they're suing you for thousands?
     
  13. Nonnie
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    Nonnie Contributing Member

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    :D yeah.
     
  14. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    You might want to read a book on copyright. It will help you understand what you can and can't do.

    Names and titles are okay to use, as long as you don't disparage a person or trademark. (Disparaging someone isn't copyright infringement, it's libel which is also illegal.)

    Lyrics are definitely not okay to use without permission.

    When in doubt, don't do it, or consult a lawyer first. But basic knowledge never hurt anyone.

    Charlie
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen only to banzai and cog!

    no one else above has a clue, sorry to say... you can see for yourself that b/c are in the know, by checking the actual letter of the law at its source [which anyone should do, before offering what could be--and in this case is--bad advice]:

    www.copyright.gov

    you'll note that in the case of song lyrics--not titles--the amount one can use--when citing the author--is not specifically defined... that does not mean you can safely use even a single line... only that a court will decide the issue... which means you'll be out legal fees to defend yourself and could also face 'damages' if you lose...

    all of which means you'd be foolish to the max, to use any part of someone else's lyrics without their written permission... and, as noted above, that can cost ya biiiig bucks...
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nonnie...

    that's ridiculous... if you're only joking, at least add a winker... if not, you'd better study up on the laws governing one's writing and check out news stories on how much the losers of copyright suits had to pony up... 'forgiveness' in such cases comes with a very stiff price tag...
     
  17. Rechar
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    Rechar Member

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    *le gasp* Hey now, you'll see my reply stated that Titles are fair game, and as for lyrics its a grey area without any set precedents but its better to air on the side of caution.

    Being someone who spends a great deal of time in Trade law, i know a bit! :p
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry 'bout that, r!

    should've excepted you from the 'no one' clause... apologies herewith tendered...

    abashed hugs, m
     
  19. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not the songs themselves, but phrases that have passed into the vernacular that are also used in the songs.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not if they entered the vernacular from the songs.

    Bottom line, if you intend to use song lyrics in your writing, consult with a good literary attorney. He or she can help you secure the requisite permissions in a legally secure manner, or advise you in those instances that permission is unnecessary.

    It is not a matter to be taken lightly.
     
  21. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    And when an agent or editor is considering the manuscript and questions if you've obtained permission from the artists to quote/use their words/lyics, the answer will be?

    "They'll have to prove it."
    "Better to ask forgiveness than permission."
    "I didn't know I had to?"
    etc.

    A writing friend was working on a novel and was going to use quotes. His experience was that the smaller bands/groups were more than happy but larger ones weren't or were unresponsive. It's not impossible, but it is time consuming. He ended up using a different format for the beginning of his chapters.

    It would be a shame to get so far in the submission and possible acceptance process only to stumble over a concern such as this.

    Terry
     
  22. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Oh for the love of God...

    Will people please stop giving advice if they don't know anything about it? You may not like it. You may think it's stupid and unfair. But the law says that you have to have permission to use other people's copyrighted work. And just saying that you didn't feel like it, or that writers from two centuries ago didn't, won't stop them suing you for thousands, if not millions.

    Though actually, it wouldn't get to that stage, since no agent or publisher would be stupid enough to accept such a manuscript. It would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.


    I'm closing this thread. There's nothing more to debate, and strangely enough, the law on copyright protection isn't going to change just because some people on the internet don't like it.
     
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