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How to Use Song Lyrics in Your Book

Posted by Kristen Hamilton on March 9, 2018 at 9:00 AM

When using song lyrics in your book, it’s important to do your homework. If you’re not careful about obtaining permissions where necessary, you can be sued for copyright infringement (yikes).

To obtain permission on using song lyrics in your book, you must first determine who is the copyright holder. In some cases, you may need to pay the owner a fee in order to use their lyrics in your book.

According to a very helpful article on this same subject on the website Copyright Kids, you can find music publishers’ contact information through the ASCAP, the BMI, and the SESAC.



The ASCAP is the most recommended of these performing rights societies, so I’d suggest you go there first. I went to the ASCAP’s search option and did a search for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (have I mentioned that Titanic is one of my favorite movies?). I was able to find the song publisher’s contact information pretty quickly. Simple.

The next step would be to contact them and wait for a response. Apparently it can get pretty pricey for obtaining copyright permissions, which is why many authors prefer to avoid using song lyrics altogether and instead refer to the song title directly—there’s no copyright infringement if you say something like “Nancy turned up the radio to the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California.’”



Keep in mind that any song published in 1922 or earlier is considered public domain in the USA. Some songs published after 1922 are also public domain, and you can search the public domain directory to be sure.




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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of

Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing

services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several

authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have

topped Amazon's best sellers lists.


Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she

can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her

four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,

eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is

likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.


Categories: writing

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