Lyrics In Books: Your Questions Answered

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From BookBaby Blog:

If a music artist wants to record someone else’s song, there is a set fee for that use, but rights and fees are entirely up to the publisher when it comes to printing lyrics in books. If you don’t want to violate US Copyright Code, read on.

. . . .

How do I legally quote song lyrics in my book?

Don’t do it.

No, really.

Trust me. If you want to legally print the lyrics of a popular song in your book to set a mood, have a character sing along with the radio, or use as a lead-in to your chapters, you need permission from the copyright owner. Getting this permission will very likely be:

  1. Maddening
  2. Expensive
  3. Impossible

I recommend you don’t do it.

Authors can’t quote song lyrics in books without permission?

Not without violating US Copyright Code.

But it’s really important to me. There MUST be a way. I’ve seen other writers do it.

There is a way to do it, and it may only cost you hundreds of dollars. It may cost thousands of dollars. The process can take anywhere from weeks to never. Your request may be denied for no reason. There’ll very probably be no back-and-forth.

And consider this: Just because a song has a specific meaning for you, you don’t know your readers are going to react the same way. They’ll be bringing their own lyrical baggage with them.

But… you can quote song titles without permission. In fact, you can quote song titles, album titles, movie titles, book titles, and article titles, all day, every day. You can write, “She turned on the radio and flipped through the stations until she heard Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird on a Wire.’ She sang along, drumming on the steering wheel, desperately trying to forget about her husband…”

. . . .

Step two: Ask for permission. Usually, this means filling out a form on the publisher’s website. Search for information related to licensing and permissions, or look for a Print License. On Sony/ATV’s site, their license inquiry is located on their Synch page.

So that’s it?

Not necessarily. Are you also making an audiobook? You’ll need another permissions agreement and have to spend more money. Are you looking to sell your book overseas? You may need a different agreement from a different publisher. Are you looking to include hip hop lyrics? You may have to deal with more than one publisher. For example, “All of the Lights” by Kanye West has 10 different publishers.

Link to the rest at BookBaby Blog

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