i am self publishing a travel memoir and have several chapters where I use a couple lines from a song as part of the story. For example,
I find myself listening to Avril Lavigne’s “Happy Ending” on repeat on my iPod. “It’s nice to know we had it all. Thanks for watching as I fall, and letting me know we were done. He was everything, everything that I wanted. We were meant to be, supposed to be, but we lost it, all this time you were pretending, so much for my happy ending.”
Can I do this or do I have to get permission? I am doing this on a non-existent budget, planning to publish to Kindle and Nook, so I can't refer back to anyone else.
If I use a line from a song, such as Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence or Rihanna Sex in the Air as a chapter title am I violating copyright?
Generally short phrases, such as song titles consisting of a few words, are not protected by copyright law. That's an easy one.
A longer string of words, such as a verse or several lines in a song, is likely protected by copyright law and therefore is a tougher question. Printing several lines from a song in a book may well be fair use, which would mean there's no infringement. Unfortunately fair use is notoriously hard to predict ahead of time, the outcome being determined by the after-the-fact balancing of certain factors by a court if a lawsuit is initiated. Giving credit to the artist might help a bit, but it's relatively unimportant in an overall fair use analysis.
So, to be on the safe side, leave out the lyrics if you can. If you really want to include them, there will be at least a little risk involved, so getting specific advice from a copyright lawyer in your state would be best. Good luck.
The information provided here is general in nature, is not legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship with Will Montague or Montague Law PLLC.
The issue is whether your use of these portions of these songs would qualify as "fair use", protected by the First Amendment. The answer to this question is far from clear. But let's be practical--unless you obtain permission to use these quotes, there is strong likelihood that you will be sued--and that you will lose.
While you say you have a "non-existent" budget, this is irrelevant. In the final analysis, you are trying to profit by associating your work with famous songs written by others. Whenever you attempt to benefit by an association with famous works created by others, you are probably violating their intellectual property rights.
Or course, if you merely use a few lines of a famous song to make a point, this might be "fair use". But without knowing precisely what you intend to use and how you intend to use it, no lawyer can say that what you are doing is ok. If you want to proceed with this project, you need to retain (and pay) counsel to analyze this issue for you. Your investment in legal counsel will ultimately pay off in the long run---otherwise you risk a very expensive law suit.
If you don't feel you have the money to hire a lawyer when you are swiping people's lyrics, you do not have the money or sense to be in this business. Sorry to be blunt, but you need to stick to your own material unless you can afford to pay a lawyer to defend you if you draw fire from someone who can afford a lawyer and who is mad that you swiped their material. Sounds to me like the first CDL you get is going to put you out of business. That's not a formula for long term success.
So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
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