Saturday, May 25, 2024

We're Off to Sue the Wizard

Dear Rich: I want to use a small portion of lyrics from a copyrighted song (We're Off To See The Wizard," by  E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen) in a first novel currently being written. Songview, the search service made available at the BMI website says the song is 50% controlled by the writer and 50% controlled by the publisher (100% ASCAP). Would permission from the publisher alone be sufficient in this situation? 
Yes, permission from the song publisher (EMI Feist Music Publishing, P.O. Box 415000, Nashville, TN 37241-0814) would suffice. However, if you are only using a small portion of the lyrics, and the purpose of your use relates to the novel, its plot, or characters, we don't think you need permission just yet. Even if you self-publish, you're likely to qualify as a fair use. Alternatively, the copyright owner might consider your use of the lyrics to be de minimis and not worth the effort of chasing you.  However, if a book publisher is interested in releasing your novel, you may be required to obtain written permission.      

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