1. Mark Moore
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    Mark Moore New Member

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    Legalities of name-dropping people/works and song lyrics

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mark Moore, Dec 8, 2011.

    Possibly two or three different questions here.

    I often see the names of famous people and other properties name-dropped (such as in the old "Sailor Moon" novels, which name-dropped Backstreet Boys, X-Files, and Buffy). In my fanfics, I often do similar name-dropping as a way of establishing things about a character.

    In Stephen King's works, he often includes song lyrics before the story (or before parts of a story) to establish a theme. Similarly, I sometimes quote song lyrics before sections of a fanfic.

    What are the legalities, though, of doing so in an original published work that's sold for profit? Would I have to contact the owners to get permission to name-drop a movie/series or quote a line or two of song lyrics? Would I have to contact a celebrity to get permission to mention that my character is a fan?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    names, titles, brand/place names etc. are ok to use without permission, as long as you don't write anything derogatory about them that can get you sued...

    song lyrics are another thing altogether, as you must have permission from the copyright owner to use them... and that will usually cost you a royalty fee...

    king can afford to pay to use them... if you can't, don't!
     
  3. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I would imagine it's not King paying for it, but the publisher. (That was a question worded as a statement. :) )
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    deleted dupe
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're right... i didn't mean it came out of his pocket... him/his publisher = pretty much the same thing...

    the point being one of his stature can get away with including such costly stuff in his mss, while newbies can't... publishers taking on an unknown writer's work want to do so at the least cost, so wouldn't be willing to tack on the extra expense of royalty payments to songwriters...
     
  6. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    Mammala, I'm fairly certain that a reproduction of just a few lines of song lyrics is fair use.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Not necessarily. Fair Use is a very fact-specific inquiry, and even the use of a few lines of a song can be outside of Fair Use. You certainly can't rely on the idea that it will be deemed a Fair Use, and if you're wrong the damages can be substantial. Best to get permission.
     
  8. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I think the amount that constitutes fair use is somewhat determined on a case-by-case basis. Someone might consider four lines as fair use, while someone might consider one line as grounds to sue. Either way, using anything is risky and, if it goes to court, it could mean costly legal fees. A publisher might not want to risk that.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Legal fees, and potentially statutory damages if you lose the infringement suit. And yes, even a few lines could be held not to be a fair use, depending on how they are used, how long the original work is, the character of the new use, and the like. With a Fair Use argument in this circumstance, you're basically betting a judge is going to agree with you.
     
  10. adrenaline7
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    adrenaline7 Member

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    Tricky situation. It depends on how stubborn the original writer/artist or publishers are, I guess. You could argue the whole "fair use" thing, so long as you only use a small excerpt to prove a point. Don't just add lyrics here and there for no meaningful reason, because that's not going to work well. Unless you're an expert on copywrite laws or at least figure out a loophole to go through, like the others here I wouldn't suggest doing it.
     

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