How to cite/credit copyrighted song lyrics in Creative Commons-licensed fiction
February 7, 2010 6:42 PM   Subscribe

How do I properly credit popular (presumably copyrighted) popular music when quoting lyrics in the context of original fiction being released under Creative Commons?

YANML, of course. In the short stories I'm writing (linked in MeFi Projects), I quote several popular songs, mostly in the context of the song coming on the radio or characters singing a couple of lines. Each usage is at most a couple of lines, generally just enough to identify the specific song.

Even though I'm releasing the stories as CC, I want to give proper credit to the songwriters copyright.

What I want to know is:
-What's the proper format for doing this? I'm assuming I'd need to add the song copyright notices next to the CC notice on each story.

-When I look up each song, what should I be looking for as to whom to properly credit? Just the lyricist? Do I have to credit whatever corporation holds the copyright?

-If I wanted to use a service like Lulu or Createspace to print copies of the collected stories when they're done, am I going to run into problems having quoted copyrighted songs? Are record-company enforcers going to show up and demand I pay royalties?

-Is there anything I should be aware of that it doesn't sound like I am? Are there questions I ought to be asking that I'm not?

Thanks in advance.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
I'm not sure if this is universal procedure, but I just checked that "Acknowledgments" section from my copy of Joan Didion's collected nonfiction. W/R/T a Doors song whose lyrics she reproduces in part in The White Album:

"Lyric from 'Moonlight Drive' by The Doors. Copyright © 1967 by Doors Music Company. Reprinted by permission."

So yeah, credit artist and/or lyricist and publishing company. It is customary to get express written permission from whomever holds the publishing rights, but you're probably not going to be doing that, and I can't speak to how much of a problem that might be in legal terms.
posted by wreckingball at 6:53 PM on February 7, 2010

You will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders of all the songs you quote and pay whatever fee they demand. They will tell you how their credit should read.
posted by kindall at 6:55 PM on February 7, 2010

Yeah, you are seriously unlikely to be able to do this. From what I've hard (not a lawyer, etc. but am a writer), they charge a fortune. This is why so few lyrics are found quoted in either fiction or nonfiction books-- because songs are so short, the amount you are allowed under "fair use" is minimal. And the author has to pay for whatever royalties are owed, so usually they just choose not to use it.
posted by Maias at 7:15 PM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: Foo. Although I think I kinda suspected this might be the case.

Okay, out come the scissors...

Thanks, y'all.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:38 AM on February 8, 2010

Best answer: For a possible alternative approach, take a look at Neil Gaiman's workaround to a high price for "Under the Boardwalk". (Scroll about halfway down the page.)
posted by kristi at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

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