View Full Version : Song titles as chapter names? What does the law say?

01-26-2007, 09:07 AM
I am writing a memoir and naming each chapter after a song. I understand that permissions and a fee is involved when quoting lyrics to a song, but what about using song titles as chapter titles? What does the law say about this?

01-26-2007, 10:01 AM
No idea about the legalities, but that sounds like a pretty cool idea.

01-26-2007, 10:51 AM
I'm curious as well.. sorry that I can't help!

01-26-2007, 12:28 PM
One of my novels is called after a song title from the 1980s. I am pretty sure I've read somewhere, maybe even on here, that song and book titles aren't copyrighted.


01-26-2007, 03:25 PM
Titles are fine, there is no copyright on them. You can use them anywhere and anytime without a problem.

Where you run into copyright problems is using lyrics from songs. So basically She Loves You - fine, no problem; She Loves You Yeah yeah yeah and you'd hit a copyright issue.

I'm using song titles as chapter titles in the one I'm writing too now, and it also has a few song lyrics smattered through the text. I'm not sure how potential publishers would look on this. I have a feeling that for a new writer, they wouldn't want the hassle of copyright issues. Also, I believe that if you do use song lyrics and incur copyright, the fee comes out of your pocket, not the publishers, so if you use too many it can get expensive!

01-26-2007, 07:53 PM
thank you for your answers everyone, I appreciate that. I figured it was ok to use titles but not lyrics..

Anthony Ravenscroft
01-27-2007, 10:41 PM
It's a gimmick that I encounter about once per month on the various writing sites.

Using titles isn't really a problem unless someone wants to make a case about how "they wouldn't have commercial appeal without making it sound like the songwriters were involved." Or perhaps "they say scurrilous &/or distatesteful things & link them to my song."

Mostly, it's a crutch. Do it well & it's a pretty crutch.

01-27-2007, 11:32 PM
Not only are titles not copyrighted, but there are many songs that share the same title with another. Here's an example:
I'm sure many of these repeated titles are remakes of the same song, but you can click on the two titles "I like it like that" to view their lyrics and see they are two different songs.

I think the big reason titles don't fall under copyright is because they're too short to be a copyrightable expression (IANAL and other fun disclaimers, check out copyright.gov which might even address the issue of copyrighting titles), so it might be a good idea to avoid excessively long titles that are unlikely to be thought up independently, such as "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?"