1. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Style Using a Few Choice Words from a Song

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by A.M.P., Jun 16, 2014.

    Hey peeps, hope this is the correct section.

    In my current project, I'm writing dialogue and there is a part of it that isn't technically 100% mine...

    Basically, they're having a discourse Mr. A and Mrs. B, and they use words that allusion to a certain song from a certain band.

    They don't outright say a full line of any verse and the entire discourse maybe uses up 8-11 words to say those words but not necessarily right after the other. I don't think it's overly obvious but I'm sure some people might make the connection.

    Would that be considered plagirism, stealing, or any sort of infrigement?
    I wouldn't think so as it's only a few choice words spread here and there over a page but i'm just worried.

    Any opinions/factoids?
     
  2. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just don't make it obvious.

    That's from my unfinished manuscript. It's kinda from a chorus from a song I love and I was addicted to it when I wrote the scene.

    "You had to have it all,
    Well have you had enough?
    You greedy little bastard you,
    You'll get what you deserve.
    When all is said and done,
    I will be the one
    To leave you in your misery and hate what you've become!"

    The song is "Had Enough" by Breaking Benjamin. If you like alternative metal, it's worth listening to.
     
  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @Ultramar

    I LOVE Diary of Jane.

    Didn't listen much else from them but that song man... that song!


    Yeah, my piece is a bit similar. The lyrics are spread out and even mildly ablibed(?) to fit better and make perfect sense for the scene. Such as "drown you" as they're in water, "Heart kind as yours" he's fighting for his family, "do come across" tempting him to join them and abandon his family (from the water into a dry patch of land).


    It's rather melded in there, I doubt anyone would notice. I'm just wondering whether it's frowned on and if someone notices it if that would raise a red flag.
     
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  4. Eedjii
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    Eedjii Member

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    Psst, law stuff gets weird man. :p I'd like to know the answer to this as well, since I love to reference real things in my writing.

    I know one thing though, just hope nobody finds this thread later down the road :p

    Personally though? I think you're all good, but I ain't a lawyer. (I could've fooled you though right? :p)
     
  5. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's off the same album as Diary of Jane. And crap, I've been tempted to write a piece (my own crack at romance) that kind of is inspired by Diary of Jane. I won't get into the details since I'm saving it! But it's going to be awesome if I ever get to it. I think that Of Mice and Men is inspired by a poem, though I forget which one.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Danger, danger. Being inspired by lyrics is probably perfectly safe (though don't take my non-lawyerly word for it). Using the words, even a few of the words, even modified, even re-ordered...danger.
     
  7. A.M.P.
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    @ChickenFreak
    Danger duly noted.
    I tried googling to see if this was a common question but all I'm finding is people using the whole dang song or entire verses or something.. I just need to know for a handful of words strewn about... I might just take it out and put it in a manner that doesn't reflect the musical inspirations though I think it'd be a shame.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    People who use the words from a song are either paying for the privilege (most likely) or risking litigation (most expensive).

    Using without getting permission from the artist is not just frowned upon, it's violating the law.
     
  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    If you can't tell it's not a problem. If it's obvious, it is a problem. Changing it enough will make it your words anyway, and you'll just be copying the idea, and ideas are not protected.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But there is no absolute definition of "changing it enough". If it's so changed that absolutely all link to the original song is lost, even to those who know the song extremely well, then there's not much point in it in the first place. (Especially since I still think that there's some danger.) If it's not, then I still say, danger.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Based on this, I'm inclined to believe that this isn't a problem. The phrases you have there are very common; people use them in writing all the time.

    But when in doubt, consult a literary attorney. Or avoid this altogether.
     
  12. A.M.P.
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    Just for an added example, here's what it sounds like on black and white, if I would use a certain song in some random dialogue.

    Peter stood there, his cheek burning. He swore he tasted blood but made no sign to show his pain. She ahd hit good, and he deserved it. He just stood there and watched her cry.

    "Do you think it's alright, what you did to me? Are you just gonna stand there , like it doesn't matter to you? What am I, beating a dog?" Kerrigan sobbed, her eyes red and angry. He never meant to get such a reaction from her. "

    So, that's how more or less it sounds in my manuscript. It's there, not terribly obvious, but the inspiration clearly there for me (which makes me wonder why even do it if no reader would ever catch it?) Also, why not post an actual example from my manuscript? Because writing something on the fly is easier than showing my actual work... sad.

    Buyt I'm starting to think from the replies here and my Googlin' that it would be safer to just tone it way down and only use what's necessary.
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Dude, those phrases are so common that no one in their right mind would accuse you of plagiarism.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This is not a question you want to ask a group of well-meaning amateurs on a writing forum (including me). This is exactly the kind of question you ask a literary attorney.

    Keep in mind that the test here is not how likely are you to be guilty of plagiarism. The question is how likely is the artist to bring a suit, and how costly would it be to defend such a suit, even if you ultimately win?

    I wouldn't say not to write it. If you ultimately decide to publish via the traditional route, your publisher's attorneys might very well opine on it for you. But if you decide to self pub, a short review by a literary attorney might be a prudent investment.
     
  15. Eedjii
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    Eedjii Member

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    It would take a conspiracy theorist to figure out what you did there :p
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A common trait among lawyers, in my experience.
     
  17. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    So if one of my characters says "Baby. Don't stop believing." That's plagiarism???????????????????????????????? :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Just that? No. But my point is that as long as you know you are deliberately incorporating a lyric, you should know that you are treading on thin ice. And when you know you are doing that, the prudent thing to do is not to come and ask a bunch of aspiring writers on an internet forum, none of whom are trained professionals with that particular expertise, but to ask someone who is. Because - and this definitely bears repeating - the key concern isn't just whether it actually constitutes a copyright infringement, but whether you are likely to be sued because the owner thinks it is.
     
  19. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I'll respectfully disagree. Even a short consultation with a 'literary attorney' will run to real money, which most here couldn't afford anyway. Running to lawyers before every business decision is exactly what the legal profession wants all of us to do, for obvious reasons.

    One of the characters in one of my stories refers to his 'short little span of attention'. If that story is published, and Paul Simon wants to come after a previously-unpublished scribbler nobody has ever heard of for something that is really more homage than plagiarism, I guess he can bring it.

    Go ahead and use the lyric.
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A short consultation is much cheaper than defending a lawsuit, which at today's prices is usually ruinous.

    All I can do is offer the advice, and when I do, it is always on the side of prudence, mostly based on experience. Whether the OP takes it or not is entirely up to him.
     
  21. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Me, too.
     
  22. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    What about the fair use doctrine? How does that apply?

    I believe that you are creating a new and unique piece of work. Therefore it cannot plagiarism. Still, that is entirely subjective.

    Did Kate Bush plagiarise Wuthering Heights? Who would argue that? And yet, it uses a LOT of themes, ideas and even phrases from the book.
     
  23. A.M.P.
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    @EdFromNY
    I am going to take your advice here, most likely, and make sure it's either wayyyy diluted, more than it is, as I can't find any reliable info anywhere. I'd rather avoid the headache altogether rather than take a risk (Even though I fail to see how anyone would accuse me of malice for a few odd words sprinkled here and there that make an allusion to a song >.>... people are just terrible that way, I guess. Like the guy who won the lawsuit because his coffee was too hot...like wtf?)

    Maybe I'll post an excerpt of the scene in question after my final edits, to see what you all think. Though, I do plan on tweaking it quite a bit already and I doubt I'll keep much of the original words.
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @A.M.P. - glad to have been of help.
     
  25. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @A.M.P. there's nothing remarkable about what you bolded. You could have come up with that yourself.
     

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