Saturday, August 18, 2012

That's a hot potato!

Sheesh, I just don't believe in coincidence. Someone in my local writers' group commented that in one of my chapters, it would add some realism and spice to a scene if I had a character not just mention that Gloria Estefan was on the radio, but use a specific lyric.

Yeah, I thought, that's a good point. Readers could see that and instantly connect with that moment by hearing the song in their heads. But I'd already read contradictory information about whether writers (especially unknown ones) could do that. The next day, one of the members emailed me a link to a wikipedia article on "fair use."

Ha ha. It's not that simple anymore, folks. The subject came up almost on the same day at Critique Circle where someone posted a link to a British article describing how the writer had to pay big out-of-pocket money to use lyrics in his story, or get slapped with a lawsuit.

There were more links to more articles. Critique Circle's blog talked about it and provided the link to the Public Domain Information Project. Now, I trust what that website says. The music industry, from what I've read in a variety of places, is very, very sensitive about the slightest possibility of theft, and its lawyers are willing and eager to sue. The lawsuit doesn't have to have merit to damage a writer's reputation.

Someone in my local writers' group suggested that if I use an intentionally misquoted lyric, I can't be sued because I'm not using the actual lyric. I love that these guys are trying to help me out, but that just isn't a chance I want to take.

Have you seen Roni Loren's blog post on how she got sued over using images she thought were free? People do get sued over things they had no idea were illegal.

So the only lyrics you'll see in my WIP are the ones I write myself. Anyway, I'm thinking that the absence of other people's lyrics near mine will make mine stand out in a great way :)

Happy writing, peeps. Stay safe: legally as well as physically.


  1. I have wondered about the Fair Use of such, Owly. And suspected something like what you just wrote. I did see Loren's blog. And within minutes, I went through my blog and removed photos unless they were ones I'd taken. She went through a nightmare. We'' probably see areas of focus on copyright infringement pop up here and there as certain groups figure a best way to deal with it. For writers, I think we are going to have an exceptionally tough time protecting our work. I've read horror stories about theft, republishing in other people's names, just a myriad of things that are illegal. But, for the little guy (us), we don't have big guns or deep pockets to go after the perpetrators. Someone is always making a living off the work of someone else. :-)

  2. It's true Teresa, I think there are always going to be people stealing others' work in some fashion. And right now is an especially tough time because the entire publishing industry is in flux, complicated by how much technology is changing.

    This is really one of those "best of times, worst of times" moments in history.