08 January 2009

To quote or not to quote, that is the question...

Music is a powerful medium and using it to evoke mood and character can be a very effective tool in fiction, especially if you want to capture a particular time period or sense of place: I'm thinking of you Charles Hardin Holley (mid 1950s), and you Madonna Louise Ciccone (early 1980s) and you Seattle (circa 1990).

So, we've been talking about song lyrics in books. Or not, as the case may be.

Here in the land of Oz, unless a song lyric is in the public domain (oh - hello Messrs Gilbert & Sullivan), Australian copyright law means that any lyric quoted in a printed publication must be approved by the copyright holder. Identifying copyright holders, applying for and securing permissions can be tricky and time-consuming and once the copyright holder is identified, often the permissions fee can be prohibitive.

One particularly frustrating permissions-seeking campaign to reproduce two lines of a song lyric resulted in us being informed by one stake-holder who accounted for 33.33% ownership of the copyright that with the payment of an exorbitant fee we could secure their permission, however they were unable to advise us which person or record label emporium owned the other 66.66% of the copyright (for serious).

We are by no means saying that copyright is a bad thing. It's definitely a good thing. But if you are inspired by someone else's creative genius and you want to use their copyrighted material in your own (to-be) published work, be warned that the permissions path can sometimes be a rocky and impassable road.

Of course, if you are of the creative spirit, and you have a hankering to evoke the late 1960s, perhaps you could turn your hand to a different kind of project (who doesn't need a little of The Doors in their life every now and then...).

Clever. We applaud.

1 comment:

hereandnow said...

Hee. Similarly, I once tried to clear permission for nine words of a popular song -- except the company I contacted only controlled 10% of the copyright, and they couldn't help me find any of the other copyright holders. It goes without saying that their 10% permission fee was enormous ... blurgh.