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Can I publish song lyrics in my book?

Arlington, MA |

I am quoting a line in a song, (3 different occasions) in my book, I am only talking about a song that someone played back on their computer: i.e. I hear him begin to play the famous line "Song lyrics here..."

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Attorney answers 4

Posted

You can quote a song as long as you state who the song belongs too.

Posted

You may lawfully reproduce in a book one line from the lyrics of a song without infringing the copyright in the lyrics [even if you reproduce that line three times]. You are NOT required to note in the body of the book or on its credits page who wrote the line or who owns the copyright in the song's lyrics.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

Posted

You MAY reproduce without crediting the author since your use of the lyrics are so minimal, and you are NOT reproducing the lyrics in a way that harms authors or society's pursuit of useful arts.

Asker

Posted

Should I still give credit to the author in an endnote section? As a courtesy or requirement?

Asker

Posted

Hi Marvin,I am writing a book,Before each chapter I quote say a verse of different songs and attribute year song artist.Within a chapter only on two occasions I use two separate verses (a Doors song and The Pina Colada song of all things :) )Is this still infringement ?,Mark in Ireland

Posted

Without question, use of lyrics belonging to someone else is per se infringement. The issue is whether the use is so minimal that it constitutes a "fair use" or whether it is so substantial that it requires permission from the copyright holder. Courts have set up a four part test to consider whether use of a copyrighted work is a fair use. The four factors are: the purpose and character of your use; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use upon the potential market. It is difficult to determine whether your specific use without considering the above factors and understanding how much of the lyrics you are using. The easy solution might be to contact the publisher and ask for permission. That way you would not have to guess about whether your use constitutes infringement.

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Posted

I disagree that a fair use analysis is required. For two reasons: one line of a lyric is very, very likely not copyrightable and, even if it is, the doctrine of de minimus use applies long before it's necessary to consider whether it's "fair" to quote the line.

Esmond Jude Lewis

Esmond Jude Lewis

Posted

My response to the question came with the caveat that it was "difficult to determine how much of the lyrics" the poster was using. The poster states "just one line" but I have no idea what that means. The de minimus use analysis is still a fact-based analysis that considers the use versus the entire work. So I still hold firm that caution is the better part than valor. One line may mean different things to different people.

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