1. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Style QUOTING a few choice words from a song....

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Commandante Lemming, Jun 17, 2014.

    Saw a thread just below this on using dialogue from songs and copyright - I have a related but different question. How much can a story use quotes from music WITH attribution. I use tons of musical allegories, my characters are often listening to records, quoting songs, etc. In a lot of cases I wrap the lyrics directly into the plot and quote them as a block. My chapter titles are all lyric references, and I'm even footnoting chapters with songs that inspired them.

    So I guess the question is where fair use ends and copyright becomes a potential pitfall - especially as I reference the works of a ton of different artists (my story is set in the future and all of my middle-aged characters' old records are current Top 40 hits).
     
  2. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I mean I'm sure you could if you put little footnotes at the bottom of the page giving credit, but I think you'd be safer if you contacted the band/label/etc who owns the song. It'd just be safer.
     
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  3. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a long, long way from being finished - so it's not an issue right now. But once I finish I probably will have to contact a ton of bands or record labels - the whole story is built on how culture influences society so there's just a ton of references to everyone from Taylor Swift to Nirvana to David Guetta to...you name it I'm probably using it.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    With song lyrics, attribution is not the issue. Permission is. You need permission from the artist and often have to pay a fee for it.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I guess if this thing ever gets to print I'll be shelling out a bunch of cash to record labels - but that's assuming a lot of dominoes fall the right way. Maybe I should finish writing first :)
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That would be my advice. :agreed:
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    At some point, it's a lyric, but before that point, it's just a phrase. I would think it depends on how much of the lyric you use and how common the phrase has become.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, the OP said "I wrap the lyrics directly into the plot and quote them as a block." Sounds like a red flag to me.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, and not just for song lyrics. Violation of copyright is not usually about attribution/credit in any way at all. (Ed, I realize that you already know all this; your post just seemed like a good jumping-off point for mine.)

    Now, some people will allow you to use their copyrighted work if you give them credit, but that's just a part of the copyright holder's right to set the terms for use of his work, rather than something baked into copyright law. A copyright holder can say that before you can use their work you have to give them credit, give them money, wear purple shoes for a week, stand in the town square and recite a poem praising their cat--they can set whatever terms they want. But giving credit isn't part of copyright law itself, any more than the purple shoes or the cat poem are.

    Plagiarism is indeed about credit, but plagiarism is usually an academic or professional offense. Plagiarism and copyright violation may both come up in relation to the same work, but they are different.
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Definitely that would require permission and a citation.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Fair Use
    Transformation (law)
    Pretty complicated, not sure it's worth it unless one wants to consult a copyright lawyer.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My understanding is that fair use for song lyrics is a big, big stretch, all but impossible, especially in fiction. If you were writing a nonfiction editorial condemning some song lyrics as reflecting an idea that you disapprove of, you might reasonably be able to claim fair use as commentary. If you're mocking the song, you might be able to get away with parody.

    But if you're using the song for the inherent nature of the song, getting value from its value, then that's not commentary or parody. And for whatever reason, presumably the nature of music and songs, even a little bit of the song is, I believe, seen as a substantial taking. And no, I am not a lawyer.
     
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  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to be clear - I'm not using phrases in the text without saying where they come from. My characters actually spend a lot of time listening to music and I make a lot of points about how the lyrics of whatever they are listening to effects them. (For instance I have one sequence where a character having a breakdown starts blasting her "20 year old" Taylor Swift albums and I quote Swift's song "22" in terms of how it gets inside her head).

    Granted, like I said, I'm nowhere close to finishing this thing. If I do, and if I get to the point of publication - then I'll look at how much money I have to pay for the fact that I've loaded my piece with pop music references.
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If your characters are listening to a song, just say something like, "She was listening to [insert song name here]." Then you can add that she was affected by the lyrics without actually quoting them. This is a lot easier. There's no need, in my opinion, to quote lyrics and ask for permission and all that mess. It can cost you over $1000 just to use one line from one song. It's not worth it.
     
  15. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    When you do contact them, don't hold your breath, I've been waiting for over a year for an answer to my query to a certain record label enquiring about permission to use 8 lines of lyric from a song. And it's not even a song in the charts. I ended up re-writing that particular scene with a workaround instead.

    So even if you're not done yet, and (as it sounds) the lyrics and titles play a big part in your story, you might want to start enquiring now.

    Good Luck x
     
  16. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    But then you need to get the information and the facts about this all sorted now. It would be such a shame to do all the work involved in writing the story with so much popular culture that the story is all about, to have to shelve it at the last hurdle because you were denied permission or couldn't - for whatever reason - get it.
     
  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Luckily I haven't written most of it yet - even if I've outlined the roles that certain artist and songs play. So I will probably avoid massive lyric quotes and just reference the songs and artist names. It's a story I'm going to keep writing regardless, so I'll be careful but at the end of the day my focus is on producing a good narrative.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Nick Hornby did this sort of thing all through High Fidelity.
     
  19. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    What about a public speech? Like using a M L king Jr or Kennedy quote from a public speech?
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    Not a problem with attribution.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the speech was recorded in any tangible form, it's still copyrightable--and I believe that that includes the speaker writing it down before they speak. It would be safest to assume that speeches are always copyrighted.

    Fair use would generally allow news reporting and some other uses of a speech, but I would suggest getting expert advice before depending on fair use.
     

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