1. writerwannabe13
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    writerwannabe13 Member

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    The issue with new copyright laws and writing.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by writerwannabe13, Sep 6, 2012.

    I don't know if this has been talked about on the board but in the story I'm working on now I find I make reference to song titles in the story. I'd like to write some of the lyrics because let's face it how many of us sing along to a song in real life? How many of us talk about a movie or describe a scene to a friend? With the new copyright laws how do you deal with trying to write real scenes?


    For example I read one book which talked about I Am Sam but didn't mention the title.

    Another book I've read the characters will often great each other with a line from a movie or use a movie line as a snappy comeback but those movies seem to be "Classic" movies where I think copyright laws don't matter that much.

    anyone else having that problem.


    The reason why I ask is:

    1) Music really does inspire me. Sometimes I see a "Scene" or see a section of my book in my mind. See my characters hear them and everything and 9 times out of 10 the song I happen to be listening to when seeing the event inspires the scene it even fits in as background noise.

    2) A story(I am hoping for feedback on certain sections of the story here) I am hoping to publish within the next couple months (I self publish on Kindle--or at least want too) makes reference to a couple of songs but I am very nervous about using the song title or group out of fear of being sued.


    Any suggestions or knowledge about this stuff?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is nothing new about the rules of copyright. Lyrics are protected, and vigorously defended by the music industry. You must not use them without written permission from the copyright owner. Song titles are not copyrighted, and you may use them freely.

    FAIR WARNING:

    This site fully supports the intellectual property laws. Any posts that attempt to turn this into a debate as to what "should or should not" be covered will be removed, and infractions may be issued. Such debates are not productive, and are disruptive.
     
  3. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    I would try to avoid using the song title in a disparaging manner (I.e. a serial killer singing "Layla" while he kills people.

    I don't think it is really actionable, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't result in a lawyer writing you a letter telling you to stop.

    But like Cogito says, stay clear of lyrics and you should be OK. Naturally, if you are super paranoid like me, you could always consult an IP lawyer.
     
  4. ...
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    ... Member

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    yeah just be vague. Like Hip Hop, or reggae plays in the background. that is enough in my opinion.

    You wouldn't want somebody freely quoting your work and getting paid for it while you get nothing, would you?
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are going through a publisher, don't worry too much about it. The publisher will have all of the mechanisms in place to sort out licensing of the lyrics you quote, and when it's published there will be some small print at the beginning of the book giving details (or they might just tell you to take it out if they think it's not worth it). If you are self-publishing: bad luck, you've just discovered one of the many things publishers do for writers and that you are going to have to do for yourself, and nothing you will be told here is a replacement for professional legal advice.

    Alternatives are to write your own fictional songs for your fictional universe, or set your fiction far enough in the past that they stuff they sing is now public domain.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can reference a song by title, saying that the characters are listening to that song. Something like,
    We got in the car and John plugged in his MP3 player. Adele's song, Someone Like You started playing and Annie started singing along to it.
    "Oh, this is my favorite song," she said.
    "I know," he responded. "That's why I downloaded it."

    Or whatever.
    What you can't do without permission is write the lyrics in the book as what Annie is saying/singing.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or make your characters folk music enthusiasts and have them singing 18th century broadside ballads to each other. That is, after all, realistic, even if it's not all that widespread a reality. :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as you're a new and unknown writer, i wouldn't recommend following this advice about leaving it all in and letting the publisher deal with it... to do so will mark you as a clueless amateur/beginner, so the chances of such a ms being of interest to an agent or getting you a publisher are slim to none, imo...
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would agree if the work is absolutely riddled with quotations, but if a publisher rejects you on the grounds that there were one or two well-chosen quotes (especially if you have been professional and identified the sources of the quotes in the MS) then frankly I reckon they're just looking for excuses. Let's be realistic here. If they see the quotations then they're reading the work, so you're already way ahead of the pack. And unless the quotes are at the very start then they're keeping on reading your work. Anything an agent or commissioning editor gets that far with already has them convinced that you're not a clueless amateur (or at least that you are a potentially marketable clueless amateur), and that this is something with potential.
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with digitig. The publisher or agent might tell you to remove the quotes because it will be too expensive to license them or something. But if they're rejecting you for that reason alone, then there's more going on. The bigger issue would be if you are intending to or end up self-publishing. I know that getting licenses to songs for films can become very pricey for a small independent film. I don't know what the costs are like as far as licensing the printing of the words for a book. I assume it's less, but it's still an issue that you probably don't want to add to your plate if you're self-publishing. If you're going the traditional route, the publisher or agent can give you better advice because they will be familiar with your specific situation and with your book.
     
  11. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    I am in complete support this site's intellectual property laws. As a writer, I would not want someone using, misusing, or abusing my work as a support for their own. My fantasy world is mine alone. I would not want another RA Salvatore building a set of characters to place in my world and build a novel series out of it.

    I worked, sweated, banged my head against the computer screen, argued with myself for endless hours, and spent many sleepless nights trying to work out problems over the years. I would not want my hard work to be used as a crutch.

    Strip out direct references, with respect to the original authors and song writers. You can reference something indirectly, as was already brought out, by saying heavy metal was playing, or Reggae, but lyrics in a song are definitely copyrighted, just like our own work is, as soon as it hits the paper, or other media storage. Show respect. Forget the sincerest form of flattery bull$hit and leave it be.

    You don't want to have to hire a lawyer later.
     
  12. Balmarog
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    Balmarog Member

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    I read a lot of Stephen King and he includes song lyrics in a lot of his works.
    Out of curiosity, how does he get away with it if it breaks copyright law? Is there some kind of loop hole or is there some kind of fair use law being used?
    Any one know?
     
  13. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I have no idea if the rules are the same in the US, and I don't know the legalities behind this situation, but I've read a number of UK authors talking about having to pay for the permission to include lyrics in their books. In a newspaper article Blake Morrison talked about paying around £500 for a line of an Oasis song, for example. If it is the same in the US, perhaps King just pays for the permissions?
     
  14. Balmarog
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    Balmarog Member

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    It very well could be...
     
  15. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, they get permission. If you look in a book that does quote song lyrics (or movie lines, for that matter), there will be an acknowledgement on one of the pages of the book (usually the same page that gives the ISBN and publication info) stating that they lyrics were used by permission and from whom they received the permission. Usually there is some sort of fee involved, although that is not stated. You'd have to decide whether it's worth it to pay the money, or if it's not, then remove the lyrics.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stephen King can ask the copyright owner for written permission, and will usually get that permission without having to pay for it. Inclusion of lyrics in one of his books is almost certainly good for sales of the song.

    But Joe Newwriter will very likely have to pay a significant amount for such permission, because it's far more likely that the lyrics are of greater sales value than the book itself.
     
  17. maidahl
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    maidahl Banned

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    Why is Stephen King the name-example on everybody's lips in life/forum-land? Wtvr
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Because he vomits out words at rates that would put Linda Blaire to shame in the Exorcist, and yet his name recognition guarantees that no matter how bad the novel, it will turn a profit.

    Once upon a time, his reputation as a writer was well-earned. Some think it still is. I don't.
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very likely, but not absolutely certain. Some songwriters have more encouraging attitudes: Janis Ian and Billy Bragg, for example, have said stuff on record that suggests that they would be likely to grant permission, at least on very reasonable terms. Of course, then you get into the question of how much control they have over their own songs, but for the sake of a polite letter or email it can't do any harm to try asking for permission. Maybe do a bit of research into their attitudes first, though: I doubt it would be worth asking Metallica, because they take a notoriously hard line (to the extent that they're the butt of various spoof news articles, such as the one alleging that they were claiming copyright over the chords E and F, which fooled some mainstream news agencies).
     
  20. Balmarog
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    Balmarog Member

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    That makes sense.
    Thanks.
     
  21. writerwannabe13
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    writerwannabe13 Member

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    OMG that is a line !
     

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