Quoting songs?


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  1. #1

    Quoting songs?

    I have a scene in Karaoke bar. Can I legally mention artists and song titles without requiring copyright permission?

    In my current novel WIP I have a karaoke bar scene.

    If I mention an artist and a song title, have I entered the realm of requesting copyright re-use permission?

  2. #2
    WF Veteran H.Brown's Avatar
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    I dont think it breaks copyright by mentioning them but if you quote entire songs then it might Im not too sure.
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  3. #3
    You are safe as long as you stick to artist names and song titles. Those are not protected by copyright. The lyrics are protected, however, and you need permission to use them.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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  4. #4
    Said permission can often be gained through the Harry Fox Agency, the same outfit that licenses music for reproduction and public performance. But not always. I have had to ask band members or management in the past. It's costing me a few bucks to use some of the lyrics to Black Sabbath's Spiral Architect in a story with that title. Otoh, it led to email conversations with Sharon Osbourne and Geezer Butler. Absolutely worth the price. I can't wait to see them holding my book.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by MichelD View Post
    I have a scene in Karaoke bar. Can I legally mention artists and song titles without requiring copyright permission?

    In my current novel WIP I have a karaoke bar scene.

    If I mention an artist and a song title, have I entered the realm of requesting copyright re-use permission?
    I have used song lyrics in a few of my short stories as a way to set the tone and carry the story. My work is self-published on my website and not for profit, and so I've never had a problem. I believe that if you are using the lyrics in a work that you plan on making money from is where the problems may start.

    -JJB
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by JJBuchholz View Post
    I have used song lyrics in a few of my short stories as a way to set the tone and carry the story. My work is self-published on my website and not for profit, and so I've never had a problem. I believe that if you are using the lyrics in a work that you plan on making money from is where the problems may start.

    -JJB
    The stopped clock principle. This is more or less true. Viz Writer's Digest, who have better odds of getting it right:
    Song lyrics are copyrighted, which means you need permission to use them. According to our legal expert Amy Cook, there isn’t any specific law about how much you can take under fair use, but it’s common for the music industry to say you need permission for even one line of a song.“The music industry is pretty vigilant about song lyrics,” Cook says. “This is especially true if you’re using the lyrics in a novel to progress the story or add atmosphere. If you’re a music critic reviewing a CD, you have more leeway under fair use.”
    One way you can check to see if the song is still under copyright protection is to visit www.copyright.gov. This online site lists all copyright records dating back to 1978. For anything before that, you’ll need to contact the U.S. Copyright Office and may have to pay to have the records checked for you.
    Another way to find the owner of the copyrights is to contact the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). These two major music performance rights organizations don’t grant permission, but they can help you find the publisher of the song you’re looking to use.
    Once you find the rights owner, you must ask for his permission. He could offer you the rights for free, completely deny you the rights or ask you to rename your dog after him. The price is completely up to the music publisher.
    “As a practical matter, you don’t need to worry about getting permissions until your work is going to be published,” Cook says. “And your publisher may help you in securing permissions. Most publishers provide their authors with their permission guidelines and forms.”
    As for song titles, however, titles of any kind (book, song) aren’t copyrightable. But they occasionally can be subject to trademark or unfair competition laws.
    “If you used a really famous song title or part of a song as a title —say, ‘Yellow Submarine’— that’s so closely tied to a specific group (or artists), then you’d probably get a letter from their lawyers,” Cook says.
    This is why I mentioned the Harry Fox Agency...the licensing really isn't that expensive, and they'll do the legwork for you. They also deal with both ASCAP and BMI artists. Hope that helps.
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  7. #7
    I don't often use song lyrics, only done this in maybe three stories out of everything I've written over the years. It's just that certain songs and their words speak volumes to me, and help me to develop a story idea I had at the time. Music means the world to me, and I feel connected to some songs in ways I can't fully explain.

    -JJB
    ​"Strong convictions precede great actions....."

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  8. #8
    I was literally just wondering this for a scene where my characters were at a restaurant with a band.

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