Archives for literary permissions

Beware: the cost of quoting song lyrics

I think all writers do it. We try to put words into a character’s mouth, and a familiar, much-loved song lyric leaps to mind. DON’T. USE. IT. The expense of paying a royalty fee for using song lyrics cannot be exaggerated. Author Blake Morrison learned the hard way. “I still have the invoices. For quoting one line of Jumpin’ Jack Flash: £500. For one line of Wonderwall: £535”. Before you jump up and down to protest, these songwriters are protected by the same copyright rules that we authors are. Songs, books, the same. You cannot expect something for nothing, every artist has to earn a living. And it is the author’s duty – not the publisher’s – to secure the necessary permissions. Next time a line from The Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel comes to mind, I will do as Blake Morrison [above] advises: make up the song myself. After all everyone knows what the Stones sound like playing Jumpin’ Jack Flash, just mention it for atmosphere/setting/characterization [delete as appropriate] BUT do not quote the lyrics. Click here to read Blake Morrison’s full article in The Guardian. For more about Blake Morrison’s writing, check out his page at The Guardian
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Categories: On Writing.