1. Silver. Fox
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    Silver. Fox Member

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    Copyrighted music in literature?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Silver. Fox, Nov 29, 2011.

    Whoo!
    Back to writingforums with a little more experience, so I can say "I'm slightly bettah!"

    Okay, so in a few chapters I have a character who is about to sing a love song to someone, but he's singing it indirectly to her at a school's talent show. I've been listening to a lot of music lately and I'm thinking that I might have a good song to use a few lines from, but ever since I had the idea of this character singing a song, I've been worried about the effect it could have on publishing.

    So here's my question.
    If I give the name of the artist and song used, does it okay the use of the song in the book?
    (I'm personally thinking that it doesn't, but who better to ask than a bunch of writers who've been where I am?)
    Are there any ways of having this character sing a song that's already been made without copyright infringement?
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    You need permission of the copyright holder (usually the writer) of any song in order to be able to use it. Fair use doesn't apply to fiction, and if you just include it hoping to credit it and that be enough, then you're going to get sued. I don't have much experience with requesting to use a song in a story, but I wouldn't think it too unlikely that you might be expected to pay.

    The easiest way around this is to use a song on which the copyright has expired. These are going to be old songs (I think copyright is either life (of the author) plus 70 or 100 years?) and those in the public domain.

    Or, of course, to write your own.
     
  3. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    Very important and relevant note here, the words of a song are copyrighted as a literary work, and the music is copyrighted seperately as an artistic work.

    You will not be able to use the words of the song in your story without written permission. As Banzai said, expect to pay.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... and for public domain works, the time factor is 70 years after the writer's/lyricist's death...
     
  5. the1
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    the1 Active Member

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    Change a word or two in the lyric!
     
  6. Silver. Fox
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    Silver. Fox Member

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    As much as I'd like to, I don't think it would fit as much as I'd like it to if I were to do that =(

    Oh well...
    Thank you much Banzai, mammamia, and the1 =)
    I'll think of somethin' haha
     
  7. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    or just indicate the singing without directly writing the lyrics...leave what was possibly said to the imagination of the reader...
     
  8. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    As an added question, is mentioning the song/author without quoting the lyrics allowed? (ie 'Queen's "Somebody To Love" had been playing on the radio when his car struck the woman, and now was on constant replay in his mind.) (Yes, not the best line but I did it on the spot. lol) I could see how quoting the song would be difficult, but wouldn't an artist's name/song name be akin to mentioning a brandname/celebrity name, which I had heard was allowed.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I see this repeated around the site from time to time. This is not true. At least not in the U.S. I realize you're in the UK, and it may well be different there. Writers should always be cognizant of the legalities of their particular jurisdiction (or jurisdictions where the work will be available, which can be problematic).
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes, I have the same question as Show actually, because I did this when my mc was driving, and wondered if the mentioning of the artist and the song without any quoting is allowed?
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Show and Tesoro:

    Mentioning the artist and song name is not typically going to be a problem. Names and titles are generally too short to be subject to copyright protection. There can be trademark issues, but using them in the manner you are suggesting doesn't generally cause any trademark problems.
     
  12. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Just use the song you want. If your novel is good, publishers have legal departments and big budgets for this reason. They'll deal with it, if it needs to be dealt with. If you plan on self-publishing though, then you'll need to resolve it on your own.
     
  13. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    How about naming locations, abilities, entities, objects, events and so on after songs, releases, and albums? In the books I hope to write, I hope to reference a lot of artists I enjoy but I imagine a word like "Infester" or another such as "Voivod" are words that can have many other meanings that aren't so musical. I do plan on marketing the book as having a blatant influence from certain forms of music however.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    using well-known people's names, brand names, place names, etc. is done all the time and is not a problem unless you write something derogatory about them and thus risk being sued...

    anyone wanting to be a writer should study up on the rules 'n regs... the us version of the trademark and copyright laws can be found here:

    www.uspto.gov
    www.copyright.gov
     

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