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Songs in comics : A Legal question

Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:30 pm
by Azzamckazza
Thought there might be at least one person on the board that may be able to help me with a question I have.

So I'm writing a comic that is based on a song. I'm basically putting images to the lyrics so I'm not writing or adding any text to the piece. I'm planing to release it in a mini-comic in the near-future.

My question is - am I able to publish this piece? Full credit will be given to the artist for the lyrics and I'll honour them in the fine print. Do I need to get their permission?

Posted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:33 pm
by jdalton
Personally I would stay far, far away from using song lyrics without permission. I don't have any personal experience to refer to, but from what I've heard music-types are the most litigious of all copyright holders. I remember reading a Neil Gaiman novel that, in the end credits, he took some time to express his frustration at failing to get the rights to quote popular songs in his book. If Neil Gaiman can't manage to get the rights to song lyrics, I'm sure I couldn't.

Posted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 4:38 pm
by wendy w
I'd say it depends on who it is.

If it's someone whose easy to get hold of, whose management is easy to get hold of or are on a small indie label that might actually pass stuff on then by all means contact them to explain what you want to do and ask for permission. There's a good chance you'll get a no or no answer at all, but you might get permission and if you do then hooray for you.

Otherwise I'd follow jdalton's advice and not bother. : /

Posted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:28 pm
by Cities
Not to revive a dead thread, but I study copyright law, specifically with music. Yes, definitely get their permission.

Their copyright on the song/lyrics covers what are called "derivative works," meaning any artistic works that make use of the content of the copyrighted song/lyrics. This isn't to say don't publish it, or even that it's unlikely that you'll be able to get permission, just to say that permission is required. Hope that helps :)

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 7:53 am
by Blom
Cities wrote:Not to revive a dead thread, but I study copyright law, specifically with music. Yes, definitely get their permission.

Their copyright on the song/lyrics covers what are called "derivative works," meaning any artistic works that make use of the content of the copyrighted song/lyrics. This isn't to say don't publish it, or even that it's unlikely that you'll be able to get permission, just to say that permission is required. Hope that helps :)
It is the same copyright that protect your art, so that it not will be printed everywhere. If your using lyrics from music and nothing else, then the artist is the writer of the story, and is getting the same as an author.

Posted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:40 pm
by dave roman
You should read this just for context:

http://www.questioncopyright.org/nina_p ... _interview

Posted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:56 pm
by Kazu
I was actually going to use lyrics from a Bob Marley song in Amulet, and I had to contact the Marley family about using them (through my friend Adam Wolfson, a lawyer in New York). They agreed on a 1 cent per copy royalty for usage of the lyrics. In the end, after discussing it with my agent and editor, we decided not to do it, mainly due to the complications that might arise.

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:28 pm
by thedeafguy
however, if you're doing an autobiography story, then you are allowed to use lyrics from a song. But you must incorporate the lyrics in a way that's in the background.

For example, you're drawing a story about your experience in a bar or at a concert, then you can use the lyrics.

You cannot, however, use it to further the storyline. You cannot, use the lyrics, as the caption boxes to tell how the author or character feels at the moment.

There's alot of loopholes. Autobiography just means, you can write whatever happened to you in regards to people, events, or sounds. Its your life and you're drawing about it. Also, satire laws, allow you to use lyrics. Think MAD comics, they make fun of everything. You're then allowed to use lyrics.

It's a touchy fine gray line, I know. Be sure to give credit, though, to cover your bases. Last thing you want is to make some reader think the lyrics are yours...when it's not.