Rose DesRochers – World Outside my Window

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Rose DesRochers – World Outside my Window


Copyright and Song Lyrics

August 12th, 2010 by Rose DesRochers · 13 Comments

Posting song lyrics on your blog

A few days ago I found myself in a discussion with my husband and son regarding song lyric websites.

Not even two days later I found myself in a similar discussion with a fellow writer about posting song lyrics on a forum board.

These past two discussions lead to the question:

Do you need permission to display song lyrics?

Per the Copyright Act, posting song lyrics in their full entirety to your blog, Facebook page, website or forum message board without permission from the artist does in fact violate copyright laws, and could subject the poster to legal action.

What about quoting a few lines of the song?

Fair use and song lyrics

If you are posting a small excerpt of the lyrics for the purpose of critic or review then it may be considered okay to do so under the “fair use doctrine.” Again this is a Grey area. ( For more information on understanding the fair use of song lyrics please see “The Fair Use of Lyrics and Literature.”)

My son asked “What about lyric sites?”

“Many of them are violating copyright by republishing the lyrics without permission,” said Elinor Mills, staff writer for CNET News in her article “Lyrics sites out of tune with copyrights.”

In 2007, Yahoo Inc. and digital media company Gracenote launched an online lyrics service. According to their website, Gracenote has “A Lyric-specific royalty payment system ensures that songwriters get paid seamlessly.”

My son believes posting the lyrics benefits the copyright owner as it promotes their music. This may be so, but it still violates copyright. You can justify copyright violation by telling yourself and others that the artist ‘won’t mind.’

And yet truth remains: If the lyrics are not explicitly labeled as public domain, you can not repost them without permission. Remember that citing the source (giving credit) is not the same thing as obtaining permission.

Your thoughts?

If you liked this post then you might also like “Using Images on your blog-Are you infringing on another person’s copyright?

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Rose wears many hats. She's a wife, mother, respite worker, proud shih-tzu owner, blogger, published poet, freelance writer, as well as the owner and administrator of Today's Writing Community and Blogger Talk Blogging Community. Feel free to contact her with any questions you may have.Rose DesRochers has 1019 post(s) at Rose DesRochers – World Outside My Window

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13 responses so far ↓

  • Scott Thomas Photography
    Wrote: Aug 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Grey area indeed. I have quoted lyrics (but never in their entirety) to introduce a photo and then, of course, linked to a youTube video.

    After reading this, looks like I did a no-no as I was not reviewing the song but using it for my benefit.

    ReplyReply

    Rose DesRochers Reply:

    Depending on how much of the lyrics you quoted I think you’d be ok Scott. Thank you so much for dropping by.

    ReplyReply
  • Roger Green
    Wrote: Aug 12, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    At least in the US, but not in New Zealand, e.g., there is a thing called Fair Use – .http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html So if I wanted to use a portion of a lyric for educational, non-commmercial purposes, it MAY be OK. It’s poorly understood; it is not the absolutely you cannot use a copyrighted item, but it isn’t free rein either.

    What’s the law in Canada?

    ReplyReply

    Rose DesRochers Reply:

    Fair use allows you to use only a portion of the lyric for educational, non-commmercial purposes and not the lyrics in their full entirety.

    ReplyReply
  • Margaret
    Wrote: Aug 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I have found several songs to buy from itunes because I was able to google the lyrics. So…I agree with your son!

    ReplyReply
  • Captain Dumbass
    Wrote: Aug 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I’d have to agree with your son, and the fact that you never hear of anybody being charged with this suggests it’s true.

    ReplyReply

    Rose DesRochers Reply:

    NMPA have sent out DMCA notices requesting removal of copyrighted lyrics from internet websites that have not obtained permission to reproduce.

    ReplyReply
  • Colleen
    Wrote: Aug 12, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Very good post on a very important topic Rose. In our niche, content and images are stolen all the time. Folks do not realize how easy it is to find stolen content, and some places are going after people who are stealing content (lyrics fall into the protected category) and filing a law suit. Often times the cases are open and shut, with damages being $750 (minimum) or more charged to the perpetrator. Tread with caution when copying content that is not yours.

    ReplyReply

    Rose DesRochers Reply:

    Good advice Colleen.

    ReplyReply
  • Roger Green
    Wrote: Aug 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    But the fair use law in the USA never says is WHAT portion. 10%? 75%?

    ReplyReply

    Rose DesRochers Reply:

    Did you read “The Fair Use of Lyrics and Literature?” I don’t think there is any specific law about how much you can take under fair use. Because by nature songs are relatively short, using even a line or two could be considered too much.

    ReplyReply
  • Jack
    Wrote: Aug 13, 2010 at 10:54 am

    It is an interesting discussion and something that I need to think about. I make use of song lyrics constantly and have posted complete “sets” at least once.

    Let’s set aside the legality for a moment. In concept it benefits the artist, but the question is in practice and whether harm is being committed.

    Even if harm isn’t being committed if it is against the law, it is against the law. As to whether you’ll be served with a take down notice is a different story.

    ReplyReply

    Rose DesRochers Reply:

    “As to whether you’ll be served with a take down notice is a different story.”

    Why chance it though?

    ReplyReply