Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Occasionally, novels will include song lyrics in the story, or start out chapters with songs or quotes. In many cases, these lyrics or quotes are from copyrighted materials and would presumably require royalties be paid to the original author.

Does the publisher typically negotiate the purchase of these rights, or is it the responsibility of the author? Who actually pays the necessary fees?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Quotes from real people and books are generally considered fair use so they can be used without paying anyone. Song lyrics and poems are a gray area. Some people will tell you you can use portions of song lyrics - a line or two - but others will say you can't use any without permission.

If you're not using the whole song, you'd probably be able to get permission to use it without paying anything. It'd be free publicity to the owner of the lyrics - most likely the record company. If you're using the entire song, that's completely different and you might be require to pay for permission to use them. How much and whether it's a flat fee or royalties will depend on how it's negotiated.

Unless you're a NYT Bestselling author and the publishing house really really wants you, the author will have to pay this out. Publishing houses aren't going to cut into their own profits unless they really have to.

share|improve this answer
    
On a tangent . . . I saw an interesting advertisement, I think in Writer's Digest. The people who make Formica wanted to let writers know that Formica's a trademarked name. Sort of like saying someone used a Kleenex. I don't know if they thought people should have to pay to use their trademark or what, but I thought it was funny. So, remember, use tissues, not Kleenex. And don't you dare Hoover your carpet! –  foggyone Jan 27 '11 at 21:38
1  
If a company fails to protect their trademark, they can lose it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark –  Ralph Gallagher Jan 28 '11 at 4:15
1  
I always chuckle at the bored lawyers who try to stop people saying Kleenex for tissue or Google for searching. Their marketing people must have permanent face-palm injuries. –  MGOwen Feb 21 '11 at 6:18
    
Strike "bored" and add "laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank". –  Jonathan Van Matre Dec 17 '11 at 6:32
add comment

Song lyrics and poetry can be a problem. In fiction publishing, most houses will require you to get permission to quote even as little as a single line from a copyrighted popular song or from a well-known poem that's still in copyright, because many copyright owners are extremely litigious and the legal precedents on whether a single line is "fair use" are not as clear as publishers would prefer.

That said, many copyright holders are happy to let you use a line or two, if you can manage to track them down.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.