1. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    When is too much when it comes to lyrics?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zilly, Dec 13, 2010.

    In my novel, one of the characters sings Every Rose Has Its Thorn like it's her job.

    A lot of the times I'll say things like:

    Singing her favorite tune...
    Humming her self-proclaimed theme song...

    But, sometimes I like to put words that she actually says. There are about four times in the novel that she says lines from the song and the reason I chose to use lines is because they actually apply to the situation. In each situation, though, the quote is a line or less from the song.

    So, at one point, she says:

    Instead of making love, we both made our separate ways.

    At another point, she says:

    Every cowboy sings a sad, sad song.

    Am I allowed to do this without having rights to the song. I know that you don't have to have the rights to make short references and excerpts, but I don't know exactly what that is.

    Thanks,
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If you quote the song, you have to get legal permission.
     
  3. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Interesting. I found a Yahoo answers article just now that seems to say the same thing. It says that as long as the lyrics are distinguishable, permission is necessary.

    That's interesting considering that you're allowed to write something like:

    She sang Every Rose Has Its Thorn.

    The title in and of itself is recognizable and is longer than many parts that I could quote.

    This is kind of depressing. The character is based on one of my real friends that sings the song constantly. And, I know that I'll never be able to get the rights =[
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You could make up a fictional song by a fictional singer/band that still conveys the same meaning of "Every Rose Has its Thorn."
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My understanding is that titles are not protected.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    titles are not covered by copyright, but the lyrics are... and since there is no specific amount of words noted in the section of the law relating to needing the copyright owner's permission to use copyrighted work, to be on the safe side, you should not use any at all, imo...

    check the info on this at the source: www.copyright.gov

    and if still unsure, consult your own literary attorney for advice, not just nice, wanting-to-be-helpful members of writing sites...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You may be able to quote a very small portion of a song's lyrics and call it Fair Use, but it is tricky. Even a small portion of the work can be a problem in some cases, and with a song, even a couple lines can be a decent-sized portion of the work. So it's a risk.

    What you have to ask yourself, in my view, is whether you can afford to defend a copyright infringement suit if the song owner sues you, even if you are right (because even if it is fair use, the lawsuit is going to cost you a lot - Copyright litigation can run from $100K to upwards of $400K go to all the way through trial).
     
  8. Pook
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    Pook Member

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    I think its ridculous that people can own words and dictate usage.

    Copying someones song verbatim for personal finacial gain is one thing, a few words in 'tribute' is another.

    You said you knew that you would not get permission, try at least and then see what your options are.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Well...if you write a novel and claim ownership (copyright), then you own words to some extent don't you?
     
  10. Pook
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    Pook Member

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    Hollywood charge for you to view an image and charge for you to own the image to replay the image, its bonkers!
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It does get a bit much sometimes, but then you don't have to view the Hollywood images if you don't want to. ;)
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you don't seem to understand what 'fair use' means... check it out here:

    http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

    as you can see from the excerpt below, it does not apply to fiction of any kind [which includes screenplays]...

     
  13. MetalRenard
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    MetalRenard Member

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    Not really. For starters, your line of thought is wrong, they do not own the words, they own the sentence. Secondly they are not dictating usage, just asking people to recognise their work. In song writing, lyrics are (if you work on them) very very carefully selected. Like in a poem, every single syllable and sound is important to the overall impression. I write songs myself and I do not want people to steal my ideas.

    I also believe that if you really want permission you should, before giving up, ask the person who wrote them! Often they won't refuse (personal experience). You are in trouble if the song is owned by a record label though (Sony sucks for things like that).
     

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