I may be paranoid, but...

Question: I just have to check on this. If, in my novel, I mention specific songs or books by specific artists - maybe one of my characters is in a band or is an author himself, you get the idea - am I in any trouble? Is there anything in this situation about copyrights I should know? I know this is likely a stupid question, but in this time when you can sue and get sued for just about anything, I do not plan on ending up in court because I wrote a novel where one of my characters sing Linkin Park lyrics in the shower. Thanks!


Answer: As always with this type of question, I caution you that I am not a lawyer and cannot give definitive legal advice. If you have signed a contract with a publisher, they or you may wish to consult a lawyer.

That said, my understanding is that titles cannot be copyrighted but song lyrics (like the text of a book) usually are. Often you are allowed to make brief quotations from other works, up to a small percentage of any given work, and crediting the original author. However, song lyrics are so short that it's hard to make a meaningful quotation without violating copyright. So the standard advice is: don't quote song lyrics unless you know they are in public domain (which generally kicks in 70 years after the author's death).

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