1. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    Copyright Question about Songs/copyright

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Some_Bloke, Apr 9, 2015.

    I know what you're going to say "You shouldn't even worry about this sort of thing when you haven't even started writing your story" it's the same thing I'm telling myself. I write stories for fun after all but just in case I ever get the confidence to publish I don't want to have to edit my work too much.

    I could always use google for my questions but it always gives me multiple sources, each one saying different things for any question I ask so I'll ask here instead.

    One of my characters, Gregory is a lover of pre-world war three culture. I mean movies, literature, even TV show and videogames. Music is bound to be included in that mix, too.

    To the best of my knowledge, you're not allowed to write down song lyrics straight from the song (even if you state the title and who the original artist is) so I don't intend to do so. Are you however, allowed to post song titles themselves? Say for example:

    "Gregory pushed the button gently, causing Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen to blast from the speakers. He was quiet at first but once the chorus started, Gregory sang as if he knew the lyrics off by heart. His singing voice was awful, completely out of tune but it didn't seem to bother him."
     
  2. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Song titles are not protected under copyright law the same way that lyrics are so feel free to use them for setting period context. Lyrics are protected, so be very careful if and when you use them.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, titles are fine, artists are fine. It's just the lyrics that are out.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Pop culture references are fine. If you can make a fair use or de minimis use argument, then you might be able to make use of some of the lyrics, but it can be tricky with short works like songs and there is no bright-line rule you can use as to what is OK.

    Also, uses for satire or parody are protected.
     
  5. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    While we're on the topic of "what's in, what's out" in terms of copyright, what about quotes from works of literature, films, tv shows (ect)?
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Again, there is no bright-line rule (speaking of U.S. law here btw; I see you're in N. Ireland). The larger the work, the easier it is to argue that a single quote is fair use, since the amount of the work you've used, in comparison to the whole, is one of the tests for determining fair use.

    UK has "fair dealing" provisions, but from what I know of them they're a bit more limited than fair use in the U.S.
     
  7. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    It's risky. A couple words or a having a guy quote a catchphrase that has become popular in pop culture and you are safe. If you start pulling blocks of text and include it...then you are wading into territory where you should probably secure permission.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the age of the work of literature, of course. Lots of the classics are out of copyright you can do what you want with them.
     
  9. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I would go with the advice offered by @Steerpike and @BayView, but I have to say I've never understood the urge to include current song lyrics in fiction works.
     
  10. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    So quoting Robocop's "I'd by that for a dollar" is fine but taking Littlefinger's entire "Chaos is a ladder" speech is off?
     
  11. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    So what would the case be with Edgar Allen Poe's work?
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Poe is public domain but I'm not a lawyer and copyright laws may vary based on your location.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Poe is in the public domain in the U.S., and probably everywhere. Anything published with the author's permission prior to 1923 will be in the public domain in the U.S.
     
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  14. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    I just checked on the laws. Anything published prior to either 1923 or 1900 (not sure on which it is as the sources said different things) is public domain in the UK. That makes all of Poe's work public domain, and therefore quotable in a book.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As an aside, keep in mind that in some instances, for short phrases or titles, you might also have to consider trademark law. Those things aren't usually protected by copyright. A mention in the text of your work isn't going to run afoul of trademark law generally, but using it as a title may if what you're using is protected.
     
  16. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I think there's also the context. Usually, if you are quoting a manufacturer/named thing, like, a BMW or a MacDonald's big mac, as long as you are not slagging the company or product, then you are ok.

    As other's have mentioned, there are things which, once they are a certain age, they are public domain anyway.

    I am dealing with this at the moment as I am applying for copyright to reproduce lyrics from a song. I have first had to find out who owns the rights and the song I want to use is actually owned by a number of different people who own different percentages. The company I'm dealing with owns 85% so they are my main contact. As part of the application for permission, I've had to include the section of the book - complete with lyrics - as I want to use them. If I get permission and the book then differs, I will get sued.

    If I do get permission, I have to pay for it AND, it's only given for a limited time which is a certain amount of sold books or a time limit, this is something that you work out during the application process.

    So, all in all, it depends just how badly you want it in your story.

    And I want it badly! If you're interested, I'll let you all know how I get on!
     
  17. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    I'm interested, I hope it goes well for you.
     
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  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Quick update ...

    The song I want to use is owned by different companies that look after different %ages of the song and cover different territories over the world.

    The main holder (the company who own 85%) have asked me loads of questions (including wanting a copy of the section from the book where the lyrics will be used) and are now discussing my request with a few other rights holders which I think, also includes the artist. They also gave me a contact for a company who own a small percentage of the rights for North America/Canada.

    The rights holders (who hold the rights for North America/Canada) asked me similar questions and came back with an offer which is as follows:

    I pay them $100 and I get permission to use the lyrics in 10,000 copies comprising of any amount of ebooks and paperbacks so long as the total sales do not exceed 10,000 units. There is no time limit on these sales. If and when sales are nearing the 10,000 mark, I simply re-apply to extend the permission.

    I am still waiting for the main rights holder to come back with their offer, I can't see one saying yes and another saying no but I have asked the first one if I can delay payment until I have the quote from the other company for rights to sales in the rest of the world. They have said yes, so I'm back to waiting ...

    But - looking promising!
     
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  19. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    That's good to hear
     
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