Asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Pennsylvania

Q: What is the legal precedent for using part of a song lyric in a book title?

I am working on a book and would like to use a portion of one of my favorite artist's song lyrics in my book title because it fits the subject of the book (this phrase is only between three and five words and is not the title of the artist's song, album, nor is it a complete lyric from this song). What is the legal precedent for this?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Using a portion of a song lyric in your book title can raise copyright and intellectual property concerns. When you want to incorporate someone else's copyrighted work into your own, you may need permission from the copyright holder, usually the songwriter or their publishing company. This is to ensure you are not infringing on their rights.

The legal precedent for using song lyrics in book titles depends on factors such as the length of the phrase, whether it's a substantial part of the song, and how it's used. If it's just a short and common phrase that doesn't constitute a significant portion of the song, you might have a better chance of using it without facing legal issues. However, if it's a distinctive and recognizable part of the song, it's safer to seek permission or explore alternative titles.

It's essential to consult with an intellectual property attorney to evaluate your specific situation and help you navigate the copyright and fair use considerations involved. They can provide guidance on whether you need permission and assist you in obtaining it if necessary, ensuring that you are legally protected when using the song lyric in your book title.

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