Young Writers Society

Home » Forums » Resources » Ask an Expert

Lyrics in books

User avatar

Gender: Male
Points: 827
Reviews: 1
Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:06 am
View Likes
Chimera7 says...

I've seen every once in a while an author place song lyrics (sometimes a line, sometimes several), on a title page or blank page before a prologue or part or chapter. I'm writing something now, and there are a few lyrics I'd love to use, just to kind of set the tone for the story, but I was wondering what copyright restrictions go into something like that. Is it as simple as asking permission, or is there a huge sequence of emails or phone calls and (probably) a fee. If anyone happens to know please tell me!
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
-Mark Twain

User avatar
1107 Reviews

Gender: Other
Points: 93156
Reviews: 1107
Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:38 pm
View Likes
Rosendorn says...

Short lines cannot be copyrighted, which would make it you don't need to ask permission. (Although it helps if you attribute it) Also, if a work has gone into public domain and nobody has bought back the copyright so it's out of public domain, then you don't have to worry about it at all.

However, in the case of a larger section of recent lyrics (Ie- not in public domain), then you're dealing with issues. Permission, possibly royalties pay, and legal issues.

Safest bet: take public domain works.
Formerly Rosey Unicorn

A writer is a world trapped in a person— Victor Hugo

Ink is blood. Paper is bandages. The wounded press books to their heart to know they're not alone.


This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy