Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lyric Mania! by DL Larson

Sometime in the past, most of us have had to write a term paper or some other important piece where we sited resources and gave credit to others when quoting another. I've always enjoyed research and finding the exact knowledge I needed to prove my point, I considered part of the writing process. In my first book, Memories Trail, I did a plethora of research and have a bibliography at the end of my book. I gave credit where credit was due.

But the music industry doesn't think that is enough. We can't simply state who the lyrist is, or give credit to a group for their song if we wish to use a line of their song in our work. We can't use anything of any song except the title without written permission. Copyright laws prohibit anyone from using a familiar line, even with credit to the songwriters. In essence, songwriters, vocal artists and others in the music industry do not play well with others!

I'm sure it's because they have extensive degrees and have studied music from famous composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and were given personal permission to steal, er, excuse me, use their fundamental melodies in contemporary music.

So, let's see, songwriters string a few words together to a great beat not always their own, and then throw a fit when someone wants to use said lyrics in a book and give them credit for the ten word line? Yeah, I'd be upset over the free publicity too. I'd run to my lawyer and cry, "make them stop!" I wouldn't want anyone quoting me, using my hard earned work and telling others about my song.

Please understand, I don't wish the music industry ill, but I'm tired of catering to certain "cultures" and being forced to conform to unrealistic standards. No one wants to be ripped off. I get that! But if someone is willing to give a songwriter credit, is respectful of the content of the song, then where or where is the harm in that? How is this different than when writing a term paper the writer gives a scientist credit for his life-long work? Or crediting a historian for documenting a series of events? Or quoting someone famous, "ask not what your country can do for you ..."

The music industry needs to wake up to the fact that not everyone wants to abuse them. Some of us actually want to do good by sharing a line or two of some great song and thereby enhancing a story and educating a reader. Whether the songwriters want to admit it or not, we writers all live in the same sandbox, using the same words, over and over and over. The difference is, most writers comprehend the fact that once a book is sold and money is exchanged, we don't know if our words, our book will be found in a library, resold at a garage sale, quoted from or swamped for another book. It doesn't matter how many copies are out there, it doesn't matter what happens to them. We've been paid. It's done. What happens after the sale is not our business.

Why is this so difficult for songwriters to comprehend?

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Morgan Mandel said...

I had no idea they were so particular. I'll have to remember to use only titles. I guess fair use doesn't apply to songwriters like it does to authors.

Morgan Mandel

Margaret Carter said...

I completely agree with this post. It is so frustrating not to be able to quote from songs. A line, as you say, not a whole verse or more. If the song is well known, having it quoted one more time can't possibly hurt the sales. If the song is obscure, quoting from it in a book does the songwriter a favor. (Free publicity, as you said.)

I don't know what Stephen King did about the many songs he uses lines from as epigraphs in CHRISTINE. I'm too lazy to go get the book, but I think there's an acknowledgment section. In DAVE BARRY'S BOOK OF BAD SONGS, however, Barry quotes extensive pieces of songs -- and in his acknowledgment section he credits the relatively few he used with permission and lists the many he quoted without permission. Wonder how he got away with it? The book is absolutely hilarious, BTW.

Deb Larson said...

Dear Margaret ~
I'm so glad you see the irony as I do. And I've wondered how Dave Barry succeeded as he did as well. Anyone out there know the answer? Share with us, please!

And Morgan, I was shocked to find out fair use was not allowed. As I said earlier, songwriters forget they are in the same sandbox as the rest of us!!
Tsk, tsk, on them ~
DL Larson

Debra St. John said...

Interesting. I read a book recently that had tons of parts of lyrics in it from well-known country songs.

Hmn? I wonder if the author got permission.

(I decided I didn't really like the book, so I didn't keep it and can't check the 'credits'.)