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ayesha
03-29-2017, 03:40 PM
Hello,
I'm in a bit of pickle regarding this. The main character of the book that I'm working on has this habit of quoting famous writers, poets and singers - both old and new. Most of the writers I've quoted are from 19th/20th century. So I've been using little bits from my own book collection, not entire paragraphs, just one liners that go with the situation. So its always Einstein wrote this, Voltaire said that and so on and so forth. For example:

“Lying is done with words and also with silence!” She said heatedly. “Adrienne Rich wrote that! So, yes, you damn well lied!"

Basically, she uses quotes from the things she has read and also uses a lot of television sci-fi/book series swear words - famous insults from Star Wars/Firefly/Shakespeare/Wheel of Time/Harry Potter etc.
I just need to know if I'm allowed to do this? Or will this create a copyright issue? I'm a little confused regarding the Public Domain and Fair Use policy.

Regards,
Ayesha C

Barbara R.
03-29-2017, 04:10 PM
Quoting a line or two, and with attribution? No problem here. Only place you might get some blowback is quoting song lyrics. Songs are short, so copyright protects even single lines. May be true of poems, too--not sure about that.

ayesha
03-29-2017, 04:21 PM
Quoting a line or two, and with attribution? No problem here. Only place you might get some blowback is quoting song lyrics. Songs are short, so copyright protects even single lines. May be true of poems, too--not sure about that.

Thank you so much for the quick reply.
And yes, I've mentioned names of every writer/poet quoted, including the new ones like Patrick Rothfuss/Cassandra Clare. The only time attributes aren't given are during the insults/swear words. She says stuff like Frack/Knotty-pated fool/Nerfherder/Belgium while swearing. And I've used a few lines 'bloody ox of thimble-brained man'/wooden-headed buffoon/muscle brained cretin from Robert Jordan. Is that okay?
Also, is it okay to just mention song names then? Without using the lyrics, that is?
Thank you once again.

lizmonster
03-29-2017, 04:29 PM
Thank you so much for the quick reply.
And yes, I've mentioned names of every writer/poet quoted, including the new ones like Patrick Rothfuss/Cassandra Clare. The only time attributes aren't given are during the insults/swear words. She says stuff like Frack/Knotty-pated fool/Nerfherder/Belgium while swearing. And I've used a few lines 'bloody ox of thimble-brained man'/wooden-headed buffoon/muscle brained cretin from Robert Jordan. Is that okay?
Also, is it okay to just mention song names then? Without using the lyrics, that is?
Thank you once again.

Just to be clear, attribution doesn't cover you. Nor does any kind of disclaimer that the words aren't yours. And "fair use" is decided by the courts, which means after you get sued.

I don't actually know if short quotes are permitted or not, but in your shoes I wouldn't take the risk without consulting an attorney. Better yet, stick with public domain work (you can usually find out with a quick internet search).

King Neptune
03-29-2017, 06:33 PM
I agree with Lizmonster. Public domain is where to get the quotes. It is possible that authors would be willing to let you use a line, but they might charge, and you have to inquire with each one. If you want to mention something that is still under copyright, then just mention the title; titles are not covered by copyright, which is why there are multiple songs or books with identical titles.

cornflake
03-29-2017, 06:38 PM
Thank you so much for the quick reply.
And yes, I've mentioned names of every writer/poet quoted, including the new ones like Patrick Rothfuss/Cassandra Clare. The only time attributes aren't given are during the insults/swear words. She says stuff like Frack/Knotty-pated fool/Nerfherder/Belgium while swearing. And I've used a few lines 'bloody ox of thimble-brained man'/wooden-headed buffoon/muscle brained cretin from Robert Jordan. Is that okay?
Also, is it okay to just mention song names then? Without using the lyrics, that is?
Thank you once again.

It does not cover you with songs OR with lines from books/poems. You need permission for anything with current copyright, even if it's a single line and you've provided attribution.

There is NO word limit past which you need to seek permission and below which you're fine. People will tell you it's ten words, a paragraph, a certain percentage, etc. They're wrong (https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html). You need permission if you're quoting someone.


There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work.

JNG01
03-29-2017, 11:38 PM
I am an IP attorney and I've handled a lot of copyright litigation, and I'll tell you that the fair use question is intensely fact-specific. I've seen a lawsuit over a 5-word sentence, where in other cases an entire paragraph might be okay. My advice to someone in your situation is to stick to public domain works and avoid the entire issue.

AW Admin
03-29-2017, 11:52 PM
I am an IP attorney and I've handled a lot of copyright litigation, and I'll tell you that the fair use question is intensely fact-specific. I've seen a lawsuit over a 5-word sentence, where in other cases an entire paragraph might be okay. My advice to someone in your situation is to stick to public domain works and avoid the entire issue.

This is good advice. If someone sues you, even if you win, you'll lose because court costs.

And fair use is not a right; you prove it in court.

If you're determined, track your quotations with extreme care, and be prepared to write for permission. There's a good probability that you'll have to pay to use even three words, and generally speaking for most publishers, they aren't going to be willing to obtain the permissions for a first time author, so you'll have to write the permissions requests yourself.

Where it's tricky is that even if they say yes and you don't have to pay, it's time consuming. And in the request you'll need to know things about the final book, including how many copies, what format(s), where they'll be sold, etc.

Music and film rights are down right gnarly. Really truly, avoid using them.

Also keep in mind that quoting from pop culture can date your book, and might be offputting to readers.

blacbird
03-30-2017, 04:00 AM
And, as a detail to be added to what's been said, current U.S. copyright statutes have frozen public domain status to things in publication prior to 1923. Also be aware that trademark might be involved in some instances, and that's an entirely separate bowl of maggots.

caw

Cindyt
03-30-2017, 04:03 AM
I stick with Shakespeare and Pope and the like. Plus ancient lyrics that fit. If I can't find a song that is in the public domain I make one up myself.

ayesha
03-31-2017, 02:28 PM
Thank you so much, everyone, for your advice and help. I think I'm going to save my hide and stick to public domain material.
Thank you once again.

Zaffiro
04-03-2017, 08:30 PM
Getting permission to use song lyrics is like some creative punishment task the Greek gods would have dreamt up for someone who had really, really annoyed them.

Old Hack
04-03-2017, 10:18 PM
When I was a very junior assistant to an editorial assistant it was my job to apply for permissions for the authors who had failed to do this for themselves. The publisher I worked for invoiced the authors concerned and it wasn't cheap, and neither were the costs involved in getting the permissions. I'm so glad you've decided to go for public domain quotes: it's both expensive and frustrating trying to clear quoted material, and well worth avoiding.

Jason
04-03-2017, 11:48 PM
There was once a case of a $2500 fine for singing Happy Birthday on air (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp10Andthbk)

This has since been cleared up though (https://twitter.com/sorkinese/status/646494432791912449)

If you're not a fan of Aaron Sorkin or Sports Night though, the humor of this inclusion may be lost on you... :)