View Full Version : Lyric in a Title

11-26-2008, 07:18 PM
I know you can't copyright a title, but am I going to be looking for trouble if I quote one line of a song lyric in the title of my non-fiction book?

11-26-2008, 11:20 PM
I'm not a lawyer, but I would think not. Some years ago 1960s counter-culture dude Raymond Mungo wrote a memoir of his post-WWII upbringing and the crazy decade of his young adulthood, titled Famous Long Ago, taken from a well-known partial line out of Bob Dylan's song "Desolation Row". I'm sure there are other examples.

And if it's non-fiction, and you're using a lyric for scholarly, critical or parodical purposes (I don't know if you're doing any of that), there are specific provisions for such under the "fair use" provisions of U.S. copyright statutes.


11-26-2008, 11:23 PM
I'm sort of leaning that way too (and so is the publisher). Oddly enough, Ray Mungo is one of the people I interviewed for the book.

11-28-2008, 05:56 PM
I would think that a publisher would consider it before publishing. My guess is that it would be fine, particularly if the song and songwriter are credited somewhere in the acknowledgments, frontispiece, chapter title, etc.

I like the idea. One of the best novel titles ever is Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.