Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Business of Writing: Quoting Song Lyrics in Your Book #amwriting #ASMSG #RLFblog

Music is—quite literally—in my blood. My great-great-grand uncle was Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian composer of what is arguably the most famous 90 seconds in all of music history: "The Flight of the Bumblebee."

Much as Nikolai as a 4-year-old was already becoming accomplished at playing the drums, I began singing in choirs at a very young age. Later in life I would gravitate toward groups that performed classical oratorios and even helped to found an oratorio society in North Carolina in the early 1990s.

Thus it was only natural that I also developed a talent for composing original lyrics to popular tunes. Some are reverential, some humorous, and some are designed to drive telemarketers crazy. :D

Since I write mainly historical fiction, the only lyrics I ever feel compelled to include in my books are those I write myself, such as "The Caledonian Warrior's Lament" referenced in Morning's Journey and intended to be sung to the Scottish folk tune "Gloomy Winter."

I have included a copyright notice in the frontmatter of Morning's Journey to avoid any confusion.

But what about quoting someone else's lyrics in your book?

Kathryn Goldman of The Better Novel Project blog covers this scenario in quite some depth and breadth of legalese here:

The takeaway I get from Ms. Goldman's article is that unless the song is of critical importance to your story or its characters, it's best to err on the side of caution and refrain from including its lyrics in your book. Quoting lyrics—or any other type of poetry or prose, for that matter—without the express written permission of the copyright holder exposes you and your work to legal action under current copyright laws, unless the quoted work can be proven to exist in the public domain at the time of your book's publication.

And, yes, that awful pun in the preceding paragraph was indeed intended.

Now I'm off to compose the lyrics to a tavern song I reference only by title in Dawnflight, "The Seven Saxon Sisters." :D

May all your musical interludes be inspiring ones!

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