1. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Copyright

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Aprella, May 12, 2013.

    Hi! I am not very familiar with copyright and I was wondering if it's a problem if you use one line of a song in your story (as in someone saying it) or as a chapter title... or is it better to rephrase it?

    The line I was thinking about was "Your dream just lost a dreamer" from You Got It Wrong by The Rasmus. If it's a risk to get problems,I'd rather rephrase it, or isn't that allowed as well?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You cannot quote lyrics in your writing without written permission from the copyright owner. You can use the title, but not any of the content (lyrics).
     
  3. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    You can't quote Lyrics or the song name without written permission from the owner. Neither can you rephrase it in a way that it still points out to the original song. In any case you should consult a literary attorney for your specific case since as much as we have looked into the issue, we are not lawyers.
     
  4. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    It depends what country you are located in. Generally though, if you intend to publish and make money from your work, almost certainly you will need the approval of the copyright owner (who in most cases for songs will be record labels like Sony) to use the lyrics. If you rephrase something like that and it alludes to the original work, then there may be issues also. Better to get permission or leave it out. Better still is to consult a copyright lawyer :)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not really. Most countries are signatory to the Berne Convention, which specifies an international standard for copyright law. There are minor variations beteen signatory countries' copyright laws, but that is not one of them.

    What will differ is the zeal with which copyright holders will pursue copyright violators.

    In the United States, the music industry tends to vigorously pursue legal remedy.
     
  6. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Most countries are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights too, but that matters nothing for their domestic implementation! Virtually all law is country-dependent - and the US is, in many cases, not the model for a lot of other jurisdictions (European countries for example are based on a completely different system of law), so we must be careful in equating well publicised US law with what may exist in other countries - even where Conventions exist. You are right though Cogito, that enforcement is an important factor. Ultimately however, its whats on the books that count.

    To the OP: Check your own laws on this matter and get the advice of a lawyer if you can. They should be able to advise on enforcement tendencies too.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Berne Convention laws are much more uniformly applied that those of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    Absolutely be familiar with the copyright laws of your individual country, but the basic requirements of copyright law are the same for all signatories. That lyrics are protected, and that anyone including copyrighted material in their own work must have permission (and proof thereof) are fundamental requirements.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This will generally be true even if you don't expect to make any money--a lack of profit, alone, is not enough to establish fair use.
     
  9. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Despite the little debate, Cogito is absolutely correct. I may not be a lawyer, but copyright is something I have drilled into my head because of how often I need to seek permission to use copyrighted content in videos.

    I've read up on copyright in numerous countries across Asia and Europe, in addition to the US.
     
  10. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Okay thank you. I have no money to consult a lawyer so that's the reason why I asked it here. If it's going to be such a hassle, I will just leave it out since it doesn't add anything plot wise.
    But about using a song title... there are a million song title... what if you use a song title as chapter title or something without realising it is a song title? For example what if I called a chapter Stairway to the Sky and it appears to be a song title? (well the example is).
     
  11. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Song titles aren't protected by copyright. However, some are trademarked (although they need to be very successful, and original, for this to happen). As long as they aren't trademarked you should be fine. Using the example in your first post, You Got It Wrong would be fine to use.
     
  12. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Okay thanks :D
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't know of any song titles that are registered trademarks, yoshiko... can you name any?

    in any case, trademark laws do not prohibit naming the trademarked name/entity, only disallow using it for a similar business... you need to study up on both trademark and copyright... it's all here:

    www.uspto.gov

    aprella...
    using just those 6 words of a lyric are not likely to get you in trouble, as long as you cite the title and name of the lyricist, because the law does not specify how much of a lyric can be quoted without obtaining permission... check it out for yourself at:

    www.copyright.gov

    please note that this is merely the opinion of a professional editor and lyricist who has been working in the writing world for decades, but is not a literary attorney... when in doubt, always consult an attorney who specializes in such areas...
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maia is right. The whole underlying philosophy of trademarks is to prevent the likelihood of confusion and to protect the creative name that someone came up with to refer to a particular product. It's unlikely that you'll run into a trademark issue as a writer, because in the vast majority of cases, you're not seeking to trade on the product name, but rather referring to it.
     
  15. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Thank you all, this is really helping me!
     
  16. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't remember any off the top of my head, no, but there are instances of it happening.
     
  17. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    An example of a trademarked song title is "Things to do in Denver when you're dead" by Warren Zevon.
    On the other hand Red Hot Chili Peppers lost their law suit against Showtime (i believe it was showtime, it was the channel who broadcasted the TV-series "Californication") as the law judged that the title was not fit to be trademarked.
    Mattel Inc also lost their law suit against MCA Records for claims on the song title "Barbie Girl", because the court deemed that the term "Barbie" is "non-commercial speech, protected by the constitution and therefore exempt from the Federal Trademark Dilution Act (FTDA)".
    According to a literary attorney a song title can never be copyrighted but in some extremely rare instances it can be trademarked though only under some very strict conditions.
    Some of the conditions (not exclusive) are that the song has to be both highly popular and very successful commercially, the title has to be very original and the title has to be not associated with a different meaning by the public. Even then, a trademark owner does not have the right to control public discourse when the public imbues the mark with a meaning which goes beyond its source-identifying function. To win a law suit the owner of the trademark would have to show for starters that the allegedly infringing title has no artistic relevance to the underlying work whatsoever, or, if it has some relevance, the title explicitly misleads as to the source or content of the work.

    Also a simple Google search can provide valuable information.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    As others have mentioned, copyright isn't an issue with song titles anyway. But addressing the general concern of inadvertent similarities: Copyright isn't like patents, where only one person can own the idea, or like trademark, where only one person can own the trademark in a given context. Copyright is only supposed to kick in if you actually _copy_.

    Now, that leaves the question of whether you can prove that your material was original and not copied, and whether the person suing you can make a convincing enough case that your material was copied and not original. I seem to remember that makers of maps have been known add the occasional fake landmark or street, so that when others copy their maps, they can prove that actual copying was involved. For writing, I'd guess that it would come down to the odds that two passages could be identical by accident--an identical sentence could be coincidence; an identical paragraph, page, or chapter reduces those odds substantially
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd still like to see proof that "Things to do in Denver when you're dead" obtained trademark protection... yes, they sued the producers of a movie by the same name, but that had nothing to do with trademark status that i know of...

    where did you get the info that it was a registered trademark?

    the fact that nowhere in a google search or amazon listing did i see a single instance of that title carrying the tm symbol seems to prove otherwise... so i rest my case...
     
  20. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    I don't know where you can see proof of that or if it actually is a registered trademark. The literary attorney I was talking to was referencing the law suit records. I will try to ask again but I only met him coincidentally at my cousin's wedding.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he was probably referring to the suit i found info on... but it wasn't based on the title being trademark protected...
     

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