Soundtracks for Novels: legal issues? - Page 3


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Thread: Soundtracks for Novels: legal issues?

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post
    Nah, it's not an audio clip. It's this:

    The author writes the novel, publishes it, then on his website, offers a soundtrack list that they say 'goes' with reading the novel. They also quote song lyrics on their website that they say 'match' the mood they are conveying in the novel, or they match a character they are portraying. In effect, they're using the songs to promote their novel, not from the inside of the cover, but on the author's website.


    Oh, that's like using Fabreze to cover the smell of shite.
    The writing should speak for itself.
    I agree with Bayview.

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Oh, that's like using Fabreze to cover the smell of shite.
    The writing should speak for itself.
    I agree with Bayview.
    I dislike the notion of a soundtrack to read to for that very reason. Everyone reads at a different pace, too, so there's no matching tempos there. Plus, I have a hard time concentrating on what I'm reading if there's music playing. The writing should speak for itself.

    A writing soundtrack is another matter. I think it might be interesting to know what a writer was listening to when writing, but reading a book shouldn't require a soundtrack to make it interesting.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
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  3. #23
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
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    The issue will be, I submit, whether you have "published" copyrighted lyrics or "performed" copyrighted music without the permission of the songwriter, singer, publisher or whoever holds the copyright. If you do either of those things, you're for the chop.

    Without doubt, there is no copyright in a song title: only the title. You can find 100 songs with the same title and no one can sue anyone. As one expert put it to me: you can call your song "Jumping Jack Flash" if you want and no one can do anything about that. But repeat "petrol" in American English thrice in the lyrics and you're on your way to court for publishing the lyrics of a Rolling Stones song without their permission.

    Also, as a matter of clarity, you can publish anything with permission of the author, with or without payment as he/she chooses. I usually advise this route, at least to try. Many authors/songwriters/singers are writers like you and will try to help you. Some have a bad reputation as greedy bastards: I guess if I tell you who, then we're into the law of defamation . . . If you strike one, believe me, you will know it and no amount of forewarning will save you.

    There is, in the post-1980s copyright law, the provision of compulsory licencing: once the New Little Princess (if she existed) performs "The Love Of A Friend" in a public place, she puts it into the public arena. Then you have the right to perform it (as she did, except for a certain amount of artistic licence with the music but very little with the lyrics) in a public place by first paying her the statutory licence fee (which is low, calculated by amount you performed and number of people who heard you). But don't perform it first and ask her later because you're already in breach of the statute and she can kick your kneecaps or sue you if she wishes.

    There are a number of "rules" stated in this thread like the 16 second rule and "fair use" outside an educational context (you can distribute lyrics in a students' reading list for only the cost of photocopying for example) that I've never heard of. Well, I don't presume to know everything but I just query them because they sound apocryphal. I wouldn't stake a lawsuit on them without a solicitor's advice.

    Now, specifically to your case. I have never heard of this before but, as I understand it, you are talking about an author who puts a playlist in his book or on his website. From the above principles, my conclusions are:

    1. Are the songs the author's original (like mine in New Little Princess)? If really original, rock solid, no problem. You can publish your own work without doubt.

    2. Is this "soundtrack list" just a list of titles of other people's songs? If so, rock solid, no problem.

    3. You mention lyrics: the rocks start cracking and breaking. If the author publishes lyrics which are from other people's songs without permission, the songwriter can sue him. Yes, Stephen King does this all the time but you can bet that every songwriter or publisher was properly paid, 'cos our Steve has no money problems.

    4. You can promote your novel on your own website or in the novel (e.g. book jacket) itself: no problem there. That is your copyright. But you cannot pinch other people's lyrics or music to do it, without their permission. Any more than you can rob your neighbour to get the money to put up the website

  4. #24
    Is there a limit to how many words of lyrics one can use before it becomes a copyright infringement? You've got me worried now because I haven't actually quoted any songs (meaning placed them in the narrative and used quotes or attributed an artist) but, given the sheer number of songs out there, it's entirely possible to accidentally quote/plagiarize one.


    Trying to think of which songs I've used to make chapter titles... all but one of the references (that I know if) is a song title, and the one that isn't is "Closer to God" which is a reference to Nine Inch Nails "Closer" but also fits very much in the context of that chapter.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    Is there a limit to how many words of lyrics one can use before it becomes a copyright infringement? You've got me worried now because I haven't actually quoted any songs (meaning placed them in the narrative and used quotes or attributed an artist) but, given the sheer number of songs out there, it's entirely possible to accidentally quote/plagiarize one.


    Trying to think of which songs I've used to make chapter titles... all but one of the references (that I know if) is a song title, and the one that isn't is "Closer to God" which is a reference to Nine Inch Nails "Closer" but also fits very much in the context of that chapter.
    Lyrics I wouldn't touch even with fair usage, seig. Not inside your novel.

    Titles themselves aren't copyright like the lyrics, but sometimes trademark can come in with band names etc. Recently Iron Maiden took a gaming company to court over calling their game Ion Maiden, saying it was too close to the name they had trademarked. titles can obtain a trademark, though, and here's an IP lawyer on it:

    One easy fix is to use the song title. Titles are not copyright protected. A song title can achieve trademark protection, but as long as you avoid using the song title in the title of your book or with any promotional efforts, you should not violate anyone’s trademark in the song title.
    But it does state there '...or with any promotional efforts', which I'd have thought, putting the titles on an author website along the lyrics is a promotional effort.
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  6. #26
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
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    @seigfried007 @Aquilo gave you the salient answers. Don't consciously put other people's lyrics in your novel.

    On the other hand, don't stay up at night worrying about unconscious plagiarism. It is the song that is copyrighted not the lyrics. For example, your avatar: if you put a line in your own song like "She keeps me up complainin' like a Siamese cat", it doesn't mean Ted Nugent, over "Cat Scratch Fever" and Stray Cats, over "Stray Cat Strut", are going to race you to court. The copyright is in their songs, not in the word "cat". You would have to use the same words in the same way to get into trouble.

    So, no one noticed or mentioned it when, in "Frijos Frijoles", the Princess said about her cat: "She's got a touch o' class and she won't take that," even though this originates in Stray Cats' "I got cat class and I got class style". You can be inspired by others or even use some of their words accidentally: but if you are inspired, do it cleverly, not stupidly.

    Then there is the reality that "sampling" has become an epidemic in this century and many people do it and get away with it. There is a whole website dedicated to chronicling all the samples. www.whosampled.com. Not everyone who breaks the law gets prosecuted. Just don't set out to do it because you may be like the proverbial driver telling the proverbial policeman: "But everybody speeds down this road . . . ". But, on the other hand, you might get lucky like all these famous bands do (as Clint Eastwood said, then you have to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?").
    Last edited by Princesisto; September 16th, 2019 at 05:22 PM.

  7. #27
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
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    @Aquilo - what the IP lawyer is talking about is misrepresentation by confusing the public. There is no copyright in a title: no doubt about that. But if you use the title in your title, or in your promotion, in such a way that a reasonable person would think that author is endorsing your book, when he/she is not, or even that your book is their book, etc. that is a different cause of action: not copyright but intentional or negligent misrepresentation, essentially false advertising, or even appropriation of their reputation. They can sue you for damages to their reputation and any misled reader could sue you for damages or, under the American consumer protection laws, perhaps for fines.

    For example, if I name my book "Rowling's Order Of The Phoenix" or publish "This is a book the order of the phoenix would love", I would expect to get to meet J K Rowling . . . in court.

    It is one reason that the title of my novel is "The New Little Princess" not just "Little Princess" and in the back of my mind I am still not 100% sure a publisher would let it stand.

  8. #28
    This all has me wondering about Pinocchio now. Original tale is public domain, so I can use it all I want in this crazy retelling. Definitely not retelling the Disney version, which changed quite a lot from the original.

    However, the Disney movie is also referenced via the name "Pleasure Island" (which lots of other people have used; I'm using it as the name for a gay bar) and in the character design of David Surrey (black hair, blue eyes). Due to his resemblance to the Disney character, a number of people called him Pinocchio as a child, and I believe the movie might have been playing during a particularly traumatic event. I can be as vague and subtle about it as I want, but knowing Disney... this might just be a pain in the publishing.

    **Edit: looked through a bunch of character designs for other retellings, and said coloring is actually pretty common, so it doesn't have to be a reference to any specific work.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
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  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Princesisto View Post
    @Aquilo - what the IP lawyer is talking about is misrepresentation by confusing the public. There is no copyright in a title: no doubt about that. But if you use the title in your title, or in your promotion, in such a way that a reasonable person would think that author is endorsing your book, when he/she is not, or even that your book is their book, etc. that is a different cause of action: not copyright but intentional or negligent misrepresentation, essentially false advertising, or even appropriation of their reputation. They can sue you for damages to their reputation and any misled reader could sue you for damages or, under the American consumer protection laws, perhaps for fines.

    For example, if I name my book "Rowling's Order Of The Phoenix" or publish "This is a book the order of the phoenix would love", I would expect to get to meet J K Rowling . . . in court.

    It is one reason that the title of my novel is "The New Little Princess" not just "Little Princess" and in the back of my mind I am still not 100% sure a publisher would let it stand.
    I'm aware, Prince. I've been an editor for 8 years with publishing companies. The discussion, in general, is about endorsement away from the novel: lyrics and song titles used on other author websites that the author uses explicitly to say the lyrics represent their character in their work. It's clear what you can/can't do inside in a novel, but this is about what's on the website and what permission the author has been given to put those lyrics on a commercial website.
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  10. #30
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
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    @seigfried007 - On those things, I think you're right. Again, the copyright is in the story, not in the name of an island or the description of a character (unless it's fan-fic, where you've got clearly Disney's Pinocchio in another story). If any court decided that Disney had a proprietary right in all black-haired, blue-eyed characters, it would be laughed out of the appeals court. I'm trying to make you cautious, not paranoid!

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