Friday, September 13, 2013

Wants To Use Lyrics in Academic Book

Dear Rich: In order to gain permission to use lyrics from a well-known song by a famous singer-songwriter for an academic book chapter about the historical origins of the lyrics, the music publishers are asking for a fee for 10 years, renewable if the book is reprinted. Although it is highly unlikely the book will exceed 1,000 sales, in which case the license will need to be renewed, I am worried the music publishers could pursue my descendants after my death for future fees, should the book be successful. My alternative is to refer the reader to the Internet where the lyrics are easily accessible. The book will be published in both the UK and the U.S. I would like to know (a) the legal position of doing this, and (b) any guidelines on the number of words I can publish for fair use in my article.  Referring readers to an Internet link is fine and does not violate copyright laws (unless you're referring readers to an illegal download). However,  it might not be an ideal long-term solution because many links go to hyperlink heaven, never to be replaced (and leaving your book outdated). A longer-term (less appealing) solution would be to ask the reader to search for the lyrics themselves ("type 'Suzanne' and 'lyrics' into your search engine"). In general, we think that using the Internet is not an ideal workaround if you want your readers to achieve satisfaction without leaving the text.
Will your descendants get cease and desist letters? Assuming you proceed with the music publisher permission, we don't think you'll need to worry about your descendants getting hassled. We could be wrong, but in our experience music publishers are not particularly diligent about following up, particularly when the permission is tied to distribution quotas. Music publishers tend to rely on the kindness of licensees --  that is they hope that licensees will be diligent and honest and report when they've exceeded the sales ceiling. When it comes to "small" permission deals, music publishers are primarily concerned with the initial payment.
Fair use/fair dealing. U.K. and U.S. copyright law differ over the issue of fair use (in the the U.K. the term fair dealing is used). Fair dealing is much more limited and according to our limited knowledge of British law, would not apply in your case. We think you have a reasonable fair use claim under U.S. law, but we don't want you to have to go to court to prove it. Therefore, if the permission payment is not exorbitant, we'd recommend --  for your sake, your publisher's best interest, and your reader's covenience -- that you pursue the license arrangement.

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