Thinking About Adding Some Song Lyrics To Your Novel? Think Again.

Posted: March 20, 2012 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

Okay, gotta admit that I almost made this mistake.  In fact, I DID make the mistake, but thanks to a small group of amazing authors I associate with on Facebook, I caught it before publishing my second book.  The mistake–using the lyrics of another person’s song in the book.

In the back of my mind, I thought two things.  First, I’m no mega-bestseller, so who the hell cares?  Second, fair use, right?  Wrong.  Starting with the second point, there is no fair use for songs because they are too short.  Apparently, it is acceptable to use thetitleof the song, but none of the words.  Not even a couple.  As to the second point, even if you’re not a bestseller, you can get nabbed for using what amounts to copyrighted material from another artist.  And, removing the reference won’t necessarily help you avoid a lawsuit.  Finally, citation to the song is not sufficient to cover your butt either.

In short, get permission to use the lyrics, just avoid using another artist’s lyrics at all, or write your own damn song!  Good luck writing Stairway to Heaven though…

Here is a very good article I found online by Lori Lake on the topic (it spells out the legalities in more detail).

  1. Elise Stokes says:

    Reminds me of a quote: “The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.”
    -Gene Fowler 🙂

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