Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can We Do a Book About the Rolling Stones?

Dear Rich: I am a small publisher with a writing background who wants to release an e-book covering the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones. I have asked many experts three questions: who is their favorite Rolling Stone? What is their favorite Rolling Stone song? and What is a memorable experience that they had regarding the Stones and their songs? I plan to publish the findings in a e-book and sell/release it for download. My questions are: (1) Do I have to ask the band's permission to release the book? (2) If the company decides to sell the book, do we have to compensate the Stones? (3) Am I okay to publish this if I dont include any copyrighted logos/materials etc in the publication? The Dear Rich Staff has decided that its favorite member of the Rolling Stones is Keith Richards because we loved his autobiography, he set the standard for all rock and roll guitar playing, and because if we find certain old pictures of him, he kind of reminds us of the way we wanted to look back in the day. (Of course, our second favorite Rolling Stone is Charlie Watts because he is the best dresser and drummer in rock and roll.) Our favorite Rolling Stones song is You've Got the Silver because Keef sings it but if you're looking for tracks that Mick sings, then it would be Wild Horses or Angie. Our most memorable and most depressing Rolling Stones experience was the so-called "Inflatable Penis" tour in 1975. We saw the show at Indiana University Convention Center and the setlist was awesome. But it was the first tour that the Stones used props on stage and we remember thinking at the time -- maybe it was the Hoosier audience, the awful sound mix, or maybe it was the sad use of the props -- that this was the end of rock and roll. And of course, we were correct about that.
Right, you had a question. If you don't use any copyrighted materials owned by the Stones -- lyrics, photographs, etc., --  then you won't need to ask permission or deal with compensation. If you do use some limited excerpts or clips, you may be able to excuse that use under fair use principles. For example,  under U.S copyright law, you can probably get away with thumbnail reproductions of album covers as a fair use. You're probably fine to use Rolling Stones logos and trademarks because your uses are strictly information/editorial and permissible under trademark law. However, we think you are best avoiding the use of of logos (such as the logo reproduced above) on the cover of the book as that may imply endorsement by the Stones.