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  • Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by Jennifer1976 at 12:15 on 16 June 2013
    Iíve just started editing the second draft of my memoir, and the bulk of the book is set in the nineteen nineties. So Iím using a lot of cultural references that I remember being pertinent at the time. As I was in my teens and early twenties then and music was so important, Iíd really like to make reference to certain songs.

    Ideally Iíd like to use a few lyrics (e.g. two or three lines of a song after a chapter heading). Iím sure Iíve come across novels that have done this, but I wonder if maybe it is something you need permission for. If it comes to it, I can just name the artists and the songs in the main text, but I just quite liked the idea of lyrics.

    Can anybody point me in the right direction to get some clear guidance on the copyright rules about this sort of thing, please? Only Iíve mentioned a song in my first paragraph and I feel I need to be certain about what the rules are before I can carry on.


  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by debac at 13:52 on 16 June 2013
    As a kind of prologue (not really a prologue at all) I've included the lyrics of a whole song, not well known, from which the title of my novel is taken. I'm not gonna worry about it till I get the point when it matters - then I assume my agent and publisher (ha ha hollow laugh... if I ever get either) will know what to do.
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by MariaH at 14:32 on 16 June 2013
    Hi Jennifer, maybe you could just quote the two or three lines of the lyrics after the chapter heading, as intended, and then the copyright symbol followed by the songwriter/singer's name?

    Sorry, don't know the legal rules though.
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by LorraineC at 14:39 on 16 June 2013
    Jennifer, I'd be really wary of using song lyrics. You might find this blog post interesting - http://annerallen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/so-you-want-to-use-song-lyrics-in-your.html
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by blob at 14:58 on 16 June 2013
    Lorraine that is really interesting - thanks for posting. I'd often wondered the same thing
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by EmmaD at 15:03 on 16 June 2013
    Jenny, you would have to clear copyright for using song lyrics, however short the extract, and it's entirely up to the owner of the copyright whether they grant it and how much they charge for it.

    Music publishers and copyright holders are notoriously expensive and demanding.

    The basic advice is: don't. Paraphrase, refer to the song without using those words, or just tell us: there's no copyright in titles, so you can say "He was singing 'Yellow Submarine' with a slightly shamefaced gusto" without a problem.

    The Society of Authors has leaflets about getting permission to use someone else's words:


    and Blake Morrison had an interesting piece in the Guardian recently about this issue:

  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by Jennifer1976 at 15:47 on 16 June 2013
    Thanks for the replies everyone, and for the links Lorraine and Emma. I thought there would be an issue, but I hadn't realised it would be as tricky as it appears to be! I think on reflection that I'd be better off just using the titles instead.

    Right, now I've got no excuse to get on and edit my wip!
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by debac at 15:53 on 16 June 2013
    Lorraine, that's a great link and thanks for posting. The prices for a line or so seem sky high. However, those are all very well known songs. The one I use is not known widely at all, so they may not charge much.

    However, fortunately the whole song can be deleted without losing much. I just wanted it cos the title comes from it.
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by Jennifer1976 at 15:57 on 16 June 2013
    I'm intrigued to know what song it is now Deb!
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by debac at 19:00 on 16 June 2013
    It's called Disappear by Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo.
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by Jennifer1976 at 19:59 on 16 June 2013
    I don't think I know that one. I'll check it out on youtube.
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by debac at 21:01 on 16 June 2013
    I found the album because of one of the songs on it, which was used in one of the Scandinavian thrillers - I can't remember which, now. The Killing or Wallander or somesuch. That's the only place I know it from. I'm hoping that, if I ever get to a point where it matters, using the lyric will cost somewhat less than £500, since it's not as well known as Is It Love etc.
  • Re: Using song lyrics in my WIP
    by Jennifer1976 at 09:30 on 17 June 2013
    Yes, it would be worth checking out when you get to that point Deb, and as it's only the one song it might be worth using anyway if you feel it would work.

    Mine was a Blur song, but I had others in mind by The Lightning Seeds, Pulp, R.E.M., The Sawdoctors and Manic Street Preachers too, so I think it would prove rather expensive if I went down that road. Clarifying the situation re: copyright has got me back on track with my editing though, so I'm glad I asked the question!