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My character is reminiscing over her mother while listening to the song "Stardust."  I have also listed a stanza from the song.  Do I need to get permission for this or could I list the copyright of the song in the back of the book?  I also used quoted a few lines from the story Beowulf, but it is so old, I believe it is under public domain at this point.  All the copywrite stuff confuses me.  ???
 

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I actually looked into this as well. One of my characters in Multiples sings a line from a Billy Joel song. I read that so long as you're not reprinting the whole piece and not trying to misrepresent the original author, you're ok. When Billy knocks on my door and asks me to delete that line, I'll let you know. ;)
 

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I got around this by having my character sing the song.  I also changed a few words though since people rarely sing it right.

I don't see anything wrong with what you are doing though.  The character is listening to the radio so that is part of the story.

Copyrights are strange things though so who really knows what is legal?
 

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If you're using a stanza/full verse, you should seek permission from the song's publisher.  Start by checking Hal Leonard's catalog, they're the largest music publisher.  
 

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SAMulraney said:
I actually looked into this as well. One of my characters in Multiples sings a line from a Billy Joel song. I read that so long as you're not reprinting the whole piece and not trying to misrepresent the original author, you're ok. When Billy knocks on my door and asks me to delete that line, I'll let you know. ;)
Nah. Unless it is Public Domain you need permission. You can use the title but not the lyrics. Go here. You too Franklin and C.A.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-rule-copyright-material-30100.html
 
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Having the title of the song is fine, but any actual lines, even as little as a recognizable phrase, is a violation of copyright. Beowulf is of course under public domain.

SAMulraney said:
I actually looked into this as well. One of my characters in Multiples sings a line from a Billy Joel song. I read that so long as you're not reprinting the whole piece and not trying to misrepresent the original author, you're ok. When Billy knocks on my door and asks me to delete that line, I'll let you know. ;)
That's incorrect. Here's a good link to explain the situation: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/05/fair-use-the-rights-of-personality-and-unintended-consequences/

And for fun, here are some of the prices for single lines of various songs that he wanted to use: "For one line of "Jumpin' Jack Flash": £500 ($717). For one line of Oasis's "Wonderwall": £535 ($767). For one line of "When I'm Sixty-four": £735 ($1054). For two lines of "I Shot the Sheriff" (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000 ($1434). Plus several more, of which only George Michael's "Fastlove" came in under £200 ($286). Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75 ($6,315.68). A typical advance for a literary novel by a first-time author would barely meet the cost."

So you can knowingly break someone's copyright and wait for them to track you down, but that's using someone's work without permission. Considering you like the artist enough to use their work in your book, you might as well respect them enough to not steal from them.

Franklin Eddy said:
I got around this by having my character sing the song. I also changed a few words though since people rarely sing it right.
I don't think you got around anything and are still liable for infringing on the copyright. See above link. Changing a couple words isn't going to make a difference if the song is still recognizable.
 

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Using lyrics is a violation of copyright unless the song is in the public domain. ("Stardust" was written in 1927, with lyrics added in 1929, according to Wikipedia- is it in the public domain yet? Someone here probably knows, but I don't.) You don't want to use copyrighted lyrics-- it can get you in legal trouble. It is not "fair use" in American copyright law. You will sometimes hear people use that term, but it doesn't apply to fiction. You can use the title of a song (titles aren't copyrighted), but not the lyrics. You could try to get permission, but from what I hear it's expensive and difficult, and probably not worth the effort.

Using a quote from Tennyson or Shakespeare is a different matter, as these things are in the public domain. You'd have to be careful with Beowulf, because a modern translation such as Seamus Heaney's is likely still under copyright.
 

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EllenFisher said:
Using lyrics is a violation of copyright unless the song is in the public domain. ("Stardust" was written in 1927, with lyrics added in 1929, according to Wikipedia- is it in the public domain yet? Someone here probably knows, but I don't.) You don't want to use copyrighted lyrics-- it can get you in legal trouble. It is not "fair use" in American copyright law. You will sometimes hear people use that term, but it doesn't apply to fiction. You can use the title of a song (titles aren't copyrighted), but not the lyrics. You could try to get permission, but from what I hear it's expensive and difficult, and probably not worth the effort.

Using a quote from Tennyson or Shakespeare is a different matter, as these things are in the public domain. You'd have to be careful with Beowulf, because a modern translation such as Seamus Heaney's is likely still under copyright.
Ellen is absolutely right. If it's not in the public domain, you cannot do it without permission.
 

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C.A. Deyton said:
My character is reminiscing over her mother while listening to the song "Stardust." I have also listed a stanza from the song. Do I need to get permission for this or could I list the copyright of the song in the back of the book? I also used quoted a few lines from the story Beowulf, but it is so old, I believe it is under public domain at this point. All the copywrite stuff confuses me. ???
Make absolutely certain the lyrics are in the public domain before you use them without permission/acknowledgement. Check with ASCAP or BMI (Google them, they have websites) to see who owns the copyright to the lyrics. I don't remember which one had the song listed that I wanted to use, but their website informed me that EMI Blackwood owned the copyright. I check their website and was referred to Hal Leonard Corp, which handles permissions for most published lyrics, regardless of publisher or copyright holder. I got permission for two lines from the lyrics of a popular song and had to pay for it and publish the permission, as written, on an acknowledgement page. Most of the correspondence was by email, but they sent me the permission and a contract to sign via postal mail. They specified this:

Acknowledgements

Spinning Wheel
Words and Music by David Clayton Thomas
©1968 (Renewed 1996) EMI BLACKWOOD MUSIC INC. and BAY MUSIC LTD.
All Rights Controlled and Administered by EMI BLACKWOOD MUSIC INC.
All Rights Reserved International Copyright Secured Used by Permission

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Here's how the two lines appear in my story:

Troy didn't return the smile and a faint line appeared between his eyebrows.

"What?" Max said.

"Last quarter's preliminary sales report." Troy tapped the printout with a forefinger. "Down three and a half percent."

Max shrugged. "So? Nothing goes up forever."

He drummed a rhythm on the edge of Troy's desk and sang, "What goes up, must come down-"

"Cut it out. David Clayton Thomas you ain't."


----------

If you're willing to list the copyright at the back of the book, you're going to have to find out who holds it. If it's still in effect you'll have to get permission, and perhaps pay for it. It is confusing, but better to wade through it and be compliant than to violate a copyright.

Connie
 

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I don't want to create a firestorm here. I completely understand the need to pursue permission for a significantly sized quote/reproduction. And, there's certainly a good reason to "better be safe than sorry." But, Connie, wouldn't something as small as that fall under Fair Use protection?
 

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I wanted to use two lines from a Bruce Springsteen song for DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.  We wrote to him (or his people) through the right channels, and they wanted $500.  Result: No two lines.  
 

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Just wanted to say GREAT THREAD and I wish it could be stickied. Copyright infringement is such a hard thing to 'understand' and get 'wrong' and pay the consequences on. The answers that I've seen thus far are exactly what I've been told by attorneys.

Unless it's in the public domain, you have to get permission and getting permission usually involves paying $$.

Using names, however, as long as its not disparaging is probably only going to get you a boost because it's like advertising.

But don't copy and paste anything that's already been written (or designed or photographed -- it applies across the board).

Again, great thread and answers!
 

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While you can't use the lines, you can refer to them. Suppose someone is humming Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Another character might say, "Friends? That jerk couldn't get any friends on board."
 

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No. Quoting songs in fiction doesn't fall under "Fair Use". I believe some of the links above explain that better than I can, though :). Why risk it?
 

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If an author uses a few lines to a song, then she is actually promoting the song.  The singer should be grateful and he probably is.  However, the music industry is extremely greedy and want to squeeze every penny out of the public.

But from a practical viewpoint, this small copyright infringement would probably get ignored by the music industry, even if it came to their attention.  They might threaten you so you might have to change the song.  So then you would have to reupload the book contents.  This is not a problem with KDP, but could be a real problem with printed books.

However, it bothers you as an author, you shouldn't do it. 

 

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Connie Chastain said:
He drummed a rhythm on the edge of Troy's desk and sang, "What goes up, must come down-"

"Cut it out. David Clayton Thomas you ain't."
I'd be interested in how much you paid for that, because it sounds like a waste of money to me.

"What goes up, must come down" was a popular saying before David Clayton Thomas used it in his song.

Seems to me what you were paying for was the reference to the songwriter, rather than the lyric itself.

Does that mean if I publish a song with the lyric "It's not the heat, it's the humidity," people will have to pay me when they use it in a book?

Cha ching!
 

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Tmarchini said:
If you're using a stanza/full verse, you should seek permission from the song's publisher. Start by checking Hal Leonard's catalog, they're the largest music publisher.
Yep.

Remember that songs are shorter than books, and so the acceptable "fair use" segment is MUCH MUCH shorter.

I'm not a lawyer, so don't take this as legal advice, but I think you'd probably be okay with a phrase or maybe one line -- used like quoting a movie. But a whole verse or stanza is pushing it.

If your character is singing a copyrighted song, don't quote the character, describe. I remember Stuart Kaminsky used to be the master of this, in his hard-boiled pastiche of old Hollywood. His detective would flip on the radio and the narration would go something like this ".... and the radio told me that Pepsodent made my teeth feel peppy, and then the Andrews Sisters came on and told me not to sit under the apple tree without them...."

It's really tempting to add a music track to fiction, but remember that you are not actually providing the music and the emotion -- you're asking them to call it up and fill in, and if they haven't heard the song, even the full lyrics are not going to bring in the effect of singing and hearing the music. Very often such segments which are so dramatic or emotional to the write come out boring and frustrating to the reader. Better to describe the effect of the music on the character -- filling lungs with air, the open throat, the welling up of feeling. That's what the audience needs to know about.

Camille
 
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