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Famous music lyrics on scripts?

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Berethrof View Drop Down
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    Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 6:19am
Hey, folks. I was wondering, is it "allowed" to use music lyrics from known songs in your script? I know that it's not a good idea to list specific songs "playing" on a spec script, since you don't know whether you'd be able to obtain the rights, etc., but how does using lyrics work?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Word Weaver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 6:33am
I used a clip from a classic film in a script I wrote. When I posted it on TriggerStreet, some viewer reported it to the "Hall of Justice," their disciplinary committee. I had to prove that I was allowed to use the film clip, so I went to the owner of the rights of the film (Paramount). Their permissions person told me it was not a problem to include the clip in the script. If the script is produced or performed, though, rights would have to be acquired. Though I am not a lawyer, I do believe you can mention lyrics in a script, but if it's sold the rights would then have to be acquired.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BarbaraFL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 6:50am
Aha! Something I can answer...I used to work for a music industry attorney - in house counsel for one of the record companies.
 
Word Weaver is right. There's a separate set of rights for lyrics, music, performance. You technically have to get permission to use the lyrics in a published work. Now whether or not posting on here or another site constitutes publishing is an entirely different legal issue! These days it probably does.  I'd avoid having your story hinge on those lyrics if possible because it can be very difficult to get permission.
 
People called all the time to ask permission to use a song in a school performance, etc., and they were usually shot down.  Forgot why, though.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Berethrof Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 7:00am
I was thinking of having lyrics in a short, and make the festival (or try to) rounds. But I guess this shots down my idea, and I kind of thought it would, anyway.
 
But thanks for the help folks! :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tomshipley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 8:07am
I would guess it also depends on how you use them.  If a character is quoting a line, I would think that's OK.
 
There's a script in the review forum that has a character who utters the line "A war without tears," which, I assume, is taken from Peter Gabriel's Games Without Frontiers.
 
I can't image that being a problem.
 
There's a fine line between being inspired by something, paying homage to something and ripping something off.
 
I would say it depends on how it's exactly used.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote trike Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 11:33am
Originally posted by tomshipley tomshipley wrote:

I would guess it also depends on how you use them.  If a character is quoting a line, I would think that's OK.
 
There's a script in the review forum that has a character who utters the line "A war without tears," which, I assume, is taken from Peter Gabriel's Games Without Frontiers.
 
I can't image that being a problem.

That's my script.  I actually have a few such instances in that script, now that I think about it, but I'm fairly certain they would all fall under the Fair Use policy.  In that specific instance, "war without tears" is actually the phrase people use when discussing next-generation non-lethal weapons systems.  So I feel doubly safe in that instance.

M wife used to work for a major corporation, one of the biggest and wealthiest in the world, in fact, and yet for their internal presentations they would use music all the time without paying for the rights.  There's a cut-off to how much of a song you can legally use without paying for the rights or asking permission.  I want to say it's 8 bars, but that seems kind of long to me.  Seeing as how it can cost ten thousand dollars or more to use a song, it's a nice out. 

I think MTV used to do that sort of thing all the time in their shows -- they'd used as much of a song as they could without having to pay for it, which is why there'd be 50 snippets of 50 songs in any given show.

Quote There's a fine line between being inspired by something, paying homage to something and ripping something off.
 
I would say it depends on how it's exactly used.

I think if you don't get crazy with it, you can probably quote song lyrics in moderation.  Especially if you give credit to the songwriter in the dialogue itself.

One that comes to mind is in Four Weddings and a Funeral: "In the words of David Cassidy, while he was still with the Partridge Family, 'I think I love you.'"

Doug
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ABEAR111 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 11:38am
Originally posted by BarbaraFL BarbaraFL wrote:

Aha! Something I can answer...I used to work for a music industry attorney - in house counsel for one of the record companies.
 
Word Weaver is right. There's a separate set of rights for lyrics, music, performance. You technically have to get permission to use the lyrics in a published work. Now whether or not posting on here or another site constitutes publishing is an entirely different legal issue! These days it probably does.  I'd avoid having your story hinge on those lyrics if possible because it can be very difficult to get permission.
 
People called all the time to ask permission to use a song in a school performance, etc., and they were usually shot down.  Forgot why, though.
 
 
What if it were, say, hypothetically speaking of course, a poem by Corso?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BarbaraFL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 12:45pm
Originally posted by ABEAR111 ABEAR111 wrote:

Originally posted by BarbaraFL BarbaraFL wrote:

Aha! Something I can answer...I used to work for a music industry attorney - in house counsel for one of the record companies.
 
Word Weaver is right. There's a separate set of rights for lyrics, music, performance. You technically have to get permission to use the lyrics in a published work. Now whether or not posting on here or another site constitutes publishing is an entirely different legal issue! These days it probably does.  I'd avoid having your story hinge on those lyrics if possible because it can be very difficult to get permission.
 
People called all the time to ask permission to use a song in a school performance, etc., and they were usually shot down.  Forgot why, though.
 
 
What if it were, say, hypothetically speaking of course, a poem by Corso?
 
Heh, I don't know...unfortunately it was almost 10 years ago that I worked for this attorney and I've forgotten my entertainment law.  I remember mentioning to him about sampling and the eight bars and he got annoyed and told me nobody really understands that law. So I am truly of no help here!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote J_Fox Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 6:29pm
Trike - having had to write and edit some videos for major corporations in my early copywriting days, I can tell you that many companies don't bother to get rights for songs they use on internal videos. They *should*, but they don't. All it would take would be for a union guy to be working the A/V equipment at their convention to report it and they'd get hosed. You are correct in saying you can use a few bars -- I forget if it was 4, 8 or 16, but that was my producer's job to know. :) Oh, and I absolutely hated those videos. Chee-Zee.

Back to the real topic, sort of -- I'm pretty sure having a character quote lyrics is fine and that's different than performing them or using a recroding of the song. But I'll deny having said any of this in court.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote trike Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Aug 2006 at 9:19pm
My wife tells me they used to allow 20 seconds for music clips.

Doug
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