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Q: breifly citing copyrighted work in your own fiction ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: breifly citing copyrighted work in your own fiction
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: hannibalsmith-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 10 Jun 2004 10:26 PDT
Expires: 10 Jul 2004 10:26 PDT
Question ID: 359246
Hi, I need to get information on the legal status of citing
copyrighted lyrics (I'm writing a book and wish to add two or three
lines of a song to it) in my own piece of fiction.In this instance,
the character sings a parody of a certain song and it's introduced as
'sung to the tune of X' where "x" is an actual song title. Similar
guidelines on merely mentioning film titles are also required,
thanks in advance
Subject: Re: breifly citing copyrighted work in your own fiction
Answered By: alanna-ga on 10 Jun 2004 15:49 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi hannibalsmith-ga - 

Before I answer your question, I'd like to mention that I am not a
lawyer, nor should my answer be construed as legal advice.

First, some basic definitions: 

A copyright is "a legal right (usually of the author or composer or
publisher of a work) to exclusive publication, production, sale,
distribution" of a work."


Copyright infringement is "unauthorized use of a copyrighted item."


I understand from your question that you wish to cite titles of
copyrighted works, a song and some film titles.

Titles are not protected by U.S. copyright law, strange as that may
seem.  The US Copyright Office exempts from copyright law: "titles,
names, short phrases, and slogans;"  Thus  you may freely use titles
of songs or films in your book.  It is not an infringement of
copyright to do so.

	( and click on "What is
Not Protected by Copyright.")
If you were going to write out the actual lyrics of a song, these
would certainly require permission of the copyright holder or

	( and click on "What
Works are Protected.")

However, you plan to write a parody of copyrighted lyrics.  Your
parody may or may not constitute copyright infringement.  In certain
instances, the use of copyrighted material without permission is
considered "fair use."

"Fair use" is  use of copyrighted material "for purposes such as
criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple
copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research."


According to the publishing attorney, Lloyd L. Rich,  parody as a
method of criticism might fall under the "fair use" exemption.  It
might also fall under "free speech" protections of the First Amendment
of the US Constitution.


But Ann Dunn Wessberg, a copyright attorney with the firm, Faegre & 
Benson LLP, notes that : 

	"Free speech ... doesn?t necessarily protect all parody from
copyright infringement. When ?Weird Al? Yankovic parodies a popular
song, he gets permission from and pays royalties to the original

and scroll to "What is Fair Use)

As you can see, even the experts are unwilling to commit on the
matter.   However, it is likely that the eventual publisher of your
book will vet it with the firm's attorneys with whom will rest the
final decision on the matter..

If, in the meantime, you'd like to find the publisher of the actual
lyrics of the song you will cite, you can use the search engine
provided by The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers


Good luck with your book.

hannibalsmith-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Hi Alanna,
          excellent research! Much appreciated, I'll be using this service again,

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