Fair Use and Song Lyrics

Music frames our lives, and song lyrics inspire our imaginations.

As authors, we would love to quote song lyrics in a book, wouldn't we?

I'm here to tell you that song lyric  copyrights are some of the most guarded intellectual property.

Before you quote a song lyric, make sure you have an understanding of Fair Use.

In the United States, Fair Use is the principle that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights owner.

The complex doctrine of Fair Use is for purposes of review or scholarship. Read here to learn more about this issue that's of great importance to writers.

When To Claim Fair Use

Professional writers need to learn the legal issues regarding what they publish in books as well as on the Internet.

This is a sticky situation because a lot of writers think they can quote any material as long as they provide attribution.

That's an idea that can land you in the kind of hot water that requires lawyers and deep pockets. Be very careful, and read up on the subject before you quote anything.

Song Lyrics

As much as we all love music, it's natural we'd want to quote it in blogs and books and such. You can't claim the doctrine of Fair Use to do that. Fair Use does NOT apply to song lyrics. If you quote a lyric, you must have permission.

Surprisingly, it's rather simple to gain permission to use song lyrics. Several years ago, one of my friends quoted a Bob Seger song and obtained permission for free. She'd tried Seger after her first choice had named a mind-boggling fee to use one of his lyrics.

No Under The Radar

There are some artists who will never agree to have their lyrics used in any way. They will also diligently pursue litigation no matter how small the fish is.

Don't think you can publish "under the radar" because no one knows you. That's a myth in this age of web crawlers that can find anything with a simple Google Alert or something similar.

Song Lyrics and Rights Owners

If you want to find out who owns the rights to lyrics, do some research at one or more of these websites:
Takeaway Truth

Don't wreck your career by illegally using a song lyric. Take the time to find out who has the legal rights to a song lyric before you even think about quoting it.

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