While editing a manuscript of soon to change the game writer, I am noticing more and more heavy use of songs in Urban Fiction books. That makes sense because, like our music, our books are a pivotal part of our culture. That got me wondering how many Black self-published authors are fully informed about legal ramifications of the unauthorized use of song lyrics in Urban Literature.
While in the past, some books may have been overlooked through self-publishing, ineffective marketing, or low sales, that’s all changing as urban Lit grows up. Some of the chaos and messiness that the genre has experienced on its 20 year road to adulthood is slowly going the way of Hip Hop- mainstream.
Songwriters are writers too. Therefore, their lyrics are protected by Copywrite laws; and, as the game elevates, so will the stakes. Musicians will begin to start to want payment for lyric usage.
Urban Authors can save themselves a lot of headaches by seeking permission to use song lyrics before printing. This is an editor’s job. Traditional publishers do this for you, but Self- published authors with fewer resources may not use reputable editors and might overlook this. Don’t assume your editor will know this or even do this for you. Ask.
Just check out this great article from Anne R. Allen’s blog that tells you how to get the rights to use lyrics n your Urban Fiction novel. It’s called So You Want to Use Song Lyrics in Your Novel? 5 Steps to Getting Rights to Lyrics.
“This week the bookosphere saw something of a teapot-storm when a formerly indie author—now signed with a Big 5 publisher—got an odd notice from Amazon. It said her readers had been asked to delete their old versions of her book and get the new Big 5 version—at the author’s expense.
It sounded like some nasty author-bullying to me—until somebody on a writing forum said the first version might have used pop song lyrics without getting proper permission.
But why would it be such a big deal if the original indie book contained a few song lyrics? Isn’t there some kind of rule that you can use a couple of lines from something without worrying about copyright?
Yup. It’s called “fair use.”
Thing is: fair use doesn’t apply to songs. That’s because songs can have very few lines to use—fairly or otherwise.” You can read the rest of Anne’s article on her blog here….
Does your novel use song lyrics? If so, how did you handle that? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions on this. If you are an editor, do you check for song lyrics?