Mentioning musical works in fiction

Mirannan

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I have a small problem. I would like to mention specific musical works in my WIP (without quotation, just the title) but don't know about the legalities thereof; the ones I'm thinking of are well within copyright.

Also, I can only think of one work on the theme that I want to portray and my Google-fu is weak. The specific piece is March of Cambreadth by Heather Alexander. Can anyone suggest any similar works or where to find them, and also help with the legal question?

The context is that a major character is going to sing this and similar violent battle songs in a heavy metal bar - open mike event. Too complicated to explain why!

Thanks in advance. :)
 

tinkerdan

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Titles are probably okay...considering how many things have the same title.
Name dropping is probably workable as I recall some works that have dropped Names and titles to explain what someone is listening to.
Doing it sparingly and tactfully and without delving into lyrics should be safe, though you could always try to contact the person and ask politely.
I'll have to think about which works to search to find examples.

Here is an interesting link::
Why writers should rarely name songs in their fiction
::That mentions Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster because of musical references.

Some--more of interest::
Ask a Music Lawyer: Is my song title protected by copyright?
::fuzziness in some respect.
Can You Copyright a Title? | WritersDigest.com
 
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The Judge

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Mentioning the title is fine, but quoting the lyrics is likely to be problematic. Poems and other literary works can be quoted in short passages, but it's my understanding that song lyrics have greater protection for some unknown, and possibly inane, reason, and even a line is too much. I've no idea if half a line or even a few words is also a problem, but you're best to err on the side of caution.

Can't help you with finding similar works, I'm afraid, as I've never heard of this piece. Why don't you invent some tunes instead, and avoid the whole problem!
 

Mouse

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The MC in Whitecott Manor is a singer. He does karaoke. Song titles are mentioned. Lyrics were edited out by my editor.
 

Dan Jones

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Just to echo, song titles are fine - Murakami's always wittering on about song titles in his books, particularly Beatles songs, but the lyrics never make it into the prose. Lyrics are like anything else, and usually the property of the lyricist and/or publisher of the work. However, lyrics are subject to the same copyright constraints as anything else, and if the lyricist has been deceased for over seventy years* at the point of publication, then it's fine to quote the lyrics as the rights pass into the public domain. So, for example, quoting "Bohemian Rhapsody" would not be cool, coz poor old Freddie only died 26 years ago, whereas you can quote "Nessun Dorma" all you like, as Puccini croaked it over 90 years ago.

Having said that, Stephen King uses lyrics in his stuff. Probably helps being Stephen King, though.

ETA: *99 years in some territories.
 

Harpo

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Titles are fine. Any band can legally name their album whatever they like.
In the 80s there was a punk band who called their album "Michael Jackson's Greatest Hits" without any legal problems.
 

Mirannan

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Mentioning the title is fine, but quoting the lyrics is likely to be problematic. Poems and other literary works can be quoted in short passages, but it's my understanding that song lyrics have greater protection for some unknown, and possibly inane, reason, and even a line is too much. I've no idea if half a line or even a few words is also a problem, but you're best to err on the side of caution.

Can't help you with finding similar works, I'm afraid, as I've never heard of this piece. Why don't you invent some tunes instead, and avoid the whole problem!
I have no idea about your musical tastes, but this might prove interesting and/or given you and/or others some ideas:

 

The Big Peat

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Joe Hill's Horns has a few lyrics references, particularly to You Can't Always Get What You Want
 

AlexH

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Just to echo, song titles are fine.

Lyrics are okay if they're in the public domain - you need to double-check as even old stuff can be re-copyrighted. I guess Stephen King can easily afford the licence fee for any lyrics he wants to use - that's if there is a licence fee involved. Coincidentally, I've been working on a song-based story today. I used my own lyrics at first, but my bands have silly names and it's a serious story. So I've also used some instrumental songs, as well as words that are out of copyright in one case.

This is a good starter for anyone who might want to use lyrics: How to Use Lyrics Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer - The Book Designer

As for similar music, you could try websites that list similar artists e.g. Heather Alexander — Free listening, videos, concerts, stats and photos at Last.fm

You could also try the "Customers also bought" sections of websites like Amazon.
 

The Judge

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I have no idea about your musical tastes, but this might prove interesting and/or given you and/or others some ideas:
I have to confess it did nothing for me. I'm more Men of Harlech, personally! :)


(OK, not the original words, but stirring enough!)
 

Paul Meccano

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Great thread and very helpful to me as I have used lyrics in my WIP. I wasn't quite as awake as Mirannan when deciding to include a line from a well known 70's ballad!!

I'll now have to go get permission, or as much as I'd hate to, re-write that pivotal section.

That woke me up (n)
 

Paul Meccano

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This is a good starter for anyone who might want to use lyrics: How to Use Lyrics Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer - The Book Designer
Good link Alex H
leading on from this I have messaged Hal Leonard Online ( a link from your link and one of the largest music publishers, not the only one by far)

This is the link to their copyright section and is standard with most publishers. Hal Leonard Online - Frequently Asked Questions
essentially, once you've found the correct publisher you can contact them to bridge the copyright issue.
I performed a search on their site and found the copyright owner.
 

Luiglin

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I have a song lyric in one of mine that helped inspire the scene, in a weird off kilter sort of way. It's part of a line of dialogue and pays no reference back to the song/band - indeed you'd have to be really geeky in order to get it. However, if I ever get near to completing that piece the line will be changed... which is a pity as it fits the scene spot on.
 

psychotick

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Hi,

Just to add - I agree with the others that titles are fine - and you can probably get away with misquoting some of the lines too. So for example you could say something like "He warbled the line about sending the bastards back to hell".

But you should also remember that even though this work isn't trademarked (I assume) you need to avoid factually misstating / defaming anything about the work - that can lead to lawsuits. You can use opinion - so you can say that you believe this song is the worst song ever written etc - just as an example since I don't know the song. But if you go beyond that to stating facts you know are false about the work - eg "this song was pirated from Mr X etc" expect a reaction.

Cheers, Greg.
 

hitmouse

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I have to confess it did nothing for me. I'm more Men of Harlech, personally! :)


(OK, not the original words, but stirring enough!)
Slight digression in the interest of historical accuracy. Men of Harlech was not written at the time of Rourke's Drift.
 

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