Getting Permission to Use Song Lyrics in a Novel


You know what I love about blogging?  On the days/weeks when you are too busy or exhausted to think–you don’t have to!  There is absolutely no obligation to be original.  Back when I was a journalist, one of the hardest things was trying to come up with story ideas.  So glad I don’t have to worry about that ish anymore.

And with that, for this blog post I refer to another person’s blog post on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio’s site (I’m not ashamed to say that the pic is theirs too).  It’s called “How to Get Permission to Use Song Lyrics in Your Book.”  I was shocked yet not surprised to learn that to reproduce song lyrics (or a painting, poem, photo, etc.) you had to get permission.  You would think that, as a lawyer, this would have occurred to me, but it didn’t.  But the post certainly got my attention because one of my favorite scenes that I wrote takes 2 stanzas from a Faith Evans song (of course I threw some 90s R&B into my novel!).  Anyway, this what I learned about using song lyrics in novels:*

  • it’s the author’s responsibility to get permission (as opposed to the agent’s or publisher’s)
  • but you might not have to get permission if it falls under the doctrine of “fair use” (::shudder:: legalese)
  • you can probably find the person you need to contact for permission at, or
  • you may have to pay a fee

No wonder novelists don’t make any money.  Everybody is trying to get in your pocket before you’ve even written the book!  Anyway, got to get back to work, but I thought I’d share.  Have a great weekend!

*Trust me when I say this is NOT legal advice.  I got this from a blog post not case law.**

**I’m sorry about the asterik.  It’s so lawyer-y of me.


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