a copyright question: using lines from songlyrics


(Sago) #1

Here’s the situation:

I would like to make an animation, where all the spoken lines are from existing songs. The problem is the copyright… ofcourse. :frowning: I know using a complete song with music is out of the question, but could there be a line where the copyright ends? Can I use bits of songlyrics (spoken, not sung), without asking permission?

Example:
In the movie ‘School of Rock’, Jack Black says: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.” These lines are from the song ‘Greatest Love of All’ from George Benson.
Did they (had to) ask permission to use these lines?

Other examples can be when, in a movie, people sing (without the actual music) and ‘quote’ from songs or other movies. Is there still copyright going on here?

Any thoughts?

Sago


(d52477001) #2

My guess would be that as long as you are not using the animation for any kind of commercial purpose, then it should be ok to use some lines of text.

d52477001


(Alltaken) #3

well you can’t copyright sentances, so you should be fine.

you can only copyright complete stories and artworks…

Alltaken


(shbaz) #4

Also if it’s in parody form it’s fair use no matter how much you rip it off.


(henrymop) #5

It is quite legal to use whole songs in animation, as long as your not selling it.

Eg. www.animemusicvideos.org

Here (their are a butt load of AMVs here, 74511, I belive) they just cut out parts of an anime, then paste it together in synch to a song.

I heard that the reason that is is because there is a law saying that you can use songs or copyrighted material in a artistic creation, as long as no selling is going on.


(artjunky) #6

A copywrite is for a work, not a line in a work.

Now, a sentence or phrase can be trademarked, which does give it protection. You could not use “Let’s get ready to Rumble” because that phrase has been trademarked by Michael Buffer.

I really doubt you’d have to worry about a trademark with a song line, but that does illustrate the point.

You should have no problems with song lyrics, unless you are making money, than the appropriate fee would be in the range of 8 cents per copy sold, and that’s still really only if you are doing a cover or parody of a song. Actually, I think it’s a bit higher than that now, but it’s really not that big a proposition if you are actually able to sell your work.

In the real world you can even negotiate that price lower with the artist. The base fee set by the copywrite gods was set only for circumstances when the original artist would not let you use his work. While Weird Al Yankovic did get permission for many of his songs, for others he was still able to do them and pay the 8 cents per copy.

Now, it is true that you can use an entire song, music with lyrics, for your demo reel. Note I did not say any animation you make that you do not sell, but your demo reel. Just keep that in mind for the future if you do want to use a song. Using a song for an animation that is not part of your demo reel can still be construed as illegal distribution of copywritten work.

The best example of this off the top of my head was that video a year or two ago that that guy made with Drowning Pool’s “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” where it was our military kicking ass during the video. Technically, he was in violation of copywrite law, but Drowning Pool ended up granting him permission to use the song. It really would have been terrible PR if they didn’t.


(Randy S) #7

Generally speaking…

IF you are making “Fair Use” of a copyrighted work it’s permissible to use it. You are NOT “breaking” the copyright. You are ALLOWED to use it IF your work fits inside certain guidelines.

Non-commercial use is permitted:
Basically you can copy (almost) anything you want as long as it never leaves your house or if you don’t display it publicly. For example, you can copy a CD that you bought PROVIDED it never leaves your control or you don’t let other people listen to it outside of the usual normal listening environment. (Friends can come over to your house and listen.)

Scholarly use is permitted as long as you give credit:
If you are writing a term paper and you quote a poem or a line from a song it’s OK as long as you tell the reader (with a bibliography entry or footnote) the author’s name and other relevant information. (Look in a style manual for the correct way to make a citation.)

The third form of fair use is the trickiest. It’s called “Derivative Work”:
You can take a small part of somebody else’s work and use it in your own work but you have to make something new out of it. You can’t just copy the work.

Let’s say you took a photograph of a famous painting. “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, for instance. You can’t just put “The Scream” in a frame and call it a derivative work. Even if you just cut out a piece of the painting you STILL can’t use it. But if you made a photograph of a person looking at “The Scream” and that person was making a funny reaction to the painting, THAT would count as a derivative work. (Even if you can see the whole painting in the photograph.)

(BTW: If you can get a photograph of yourself standing in front of that painting I’d like to shake your hand! :wink: )

So, how do you apply this to the question of your work?

  1. Are you going to display your work publicly?
    If it’s for your own PERSONAL use and you aren’t going to display it, sell it or anything else that lets it out of your control then you’re probably OK.

  2. Is it for school?
    If it’s for a project you are working on in class you’re probalby covered AS LONG AS you give proper attribution.

  3. Are you making something completely new out of it?
    If you take those lyrics and use them for a starting point for your work then you’re probably OK. If you are just copying, you’re probably not.

So does THAT help you answer your question?


(Sago) #8

Wow, thanks very much. Even though it stays very tricky, you all made some things clear and/or steered me in the right direction.

If this work would be made, it would not be used for any commercial purpose (ha, as if someone would want to pay for it %| ). But, I would want to show it, make it public (not as an educational schoolproject).

So I think my only option would be the “Derivative Work” one, making something completely new out of it (perhaps a parody also falls under this category). Like I said, I only want to use some lines from songs to be spoken (no music, no singing). Yeah, some of these lines should/would/could be reckognized, but that’s point (fun) in it all. Someone’s up for some Styx and Rainbow? :wink:

Yeah, but what about a string of 2 or more lines/sentences? Wouldn’t this be a mini-composition in a composition? Perhaps it also depends how unique and reckognizable a sentence (or more) is.
There’s a big difference between:

"I love you baby, yeah yeah yeah
I love you more than you’ll ever know "

and

“For those about to rock, we salute you”

Like Elvis said: “Thank you very much!” (parody)

Sago


(sundialsvc4) #9

I think it’s a wise move to include citations of all copyrighted materials that you do use. Acknowledge the source, look up who owns the copyright, and say “fair use.” Then make sure that it is fair use. Finally, put a copyright-notice of your own on the finished work.

This clearly establishes that you know of and respect the copyrights that exist on the borrowed material, that you are not placing anything into the public domain, and that you’re aware of and have tried in good faith to comply with your understanding of copyright law.

The web-site for U.S. copyright law is: http://www.loc.gov/copyright.


(LetterRip) #10

There is a lot of bad info here on copyright, first all nations do not have the exact same laws on copyright, so whether any particular advice is correct will in large part depend on your location

Of particluar relevance to your question is ‘sampling’ and the ‘de minimus’ theory. The beastie boys had a three note sample from a song which they had licensed the lyrics but not the music. They were ruled to not have been infringing. (The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal).

http://www.corante.com/importance/archives/2005/06/13/beastie_boys_sampling_infringement_case_ends.php

However in another case where a similar trivial amount of usage took place it was ruled to be infringing.

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=online&s=adler100704

Thus this article argues that any sampling is infringing.


http://www.alankorn.com/articles/copyright_infringe.html

These all involved commercial usage of the samples. For non commercial usage you have a lower probability of getting sued, but the law is still the same.

Regarding your questions on did School of Rock, etc license the material they used - almost certainly.

LetterRip


(shbaz) #11

If I could stand next to that painting I’d probably smile, turn in the thieves and collect the reward.


(LetterRip) #12

The third form of fair use is the trickiest. It’s called “Derivative Work”:
You can take a small part of somebody else’s work and use it in your own work but you have to make something new out of it. You can’t just copy the work.

This is one of the really bad pieces of advice I was talking about :slight_smile:

Only a copyright holder can authorize a derivative work.

LetterRip


(LetterRip) #13

Okay a quick overview

d52477001 - he might be ‘okay’ in that he has a lower probability of getting sued, but he would likely not be in the legal clear.

Alltaken - only a work can be copyrighted, but using even a part of another work can be infringing - see my above post on de minimus.

henrymop - completely wrong. Generally they are in fact infringing, but the copyright holders often don’t bother to pursue non-commercial infringers.

artjunky - all of your claims I’ve already addressed - you were basically wrong on all counts

Randy S - you’ve misunderstood fair use - making complete copys is allowable for back up copies, time shifting and space shifting

scholarly use has also been found to be infringing if complete copies are made or if a number of copies is made - I think there have been some recent changes to make multiple copies for certain limited usage less infringing - generally it is only scholarly commentary that is fully protected other uses are much less likely to fall under fair use

derivative work - you have it completely wrong - only a copyright holder can authorize derivative works - there is no automatic grant for derivative works.

LetterRip


(Sago) #14

Okay, so derivative work doesn’t mean fair use at all, no matter how much you change about it.

I’m still reading stuff on sundialsvc4’s link to the U.S. copyright law (I’ll try a Dutch version later).

An interesting line about what is seen as fair use: “use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied”. Still trying to figure out what they exactly mean with this. The problem is that they don’t have an example for my specific situation (well, haven’t found one yet).

Anyway, it seems there are 4 factors they have to determine whether or not a particular use is fair:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; … can promotional work be seen as nonprofit?

  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

  3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

In the end, I think my (non-existing) work would fall in the ‘grey zone’, swinging between fair use and infringement. “However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.” me searches for A&M records’ phonenumber… :-?


(phlip) #15

Parody in the US fair use laws afaik mean you’re specifically making fun of or criticising that work, and it wouldn’t make sense to apply your comments to a different work. In this situation you can use excerpts as necessary to explain/enhance your arguments.

So, for example, if I were comparing blender and maya I could use screenshots etc from maya to explain my case - even though they’re copyrighted. It wouldn’t make sense to include a 3ds max screenshot in there, even if I had a license. However if I were making a general statement about 3d modellers in general, with no specifics, I would need a license to include parts of maya or 3ds max, since I’m not specifically criticising either.

Of course, screenshots here is probably a bad example because of the “substantiality” clause, but you know what I mean. Also, this is only my reading of various “fair use explained” websites - IANAL, YMMV.

[edit] promotional material? depends what you’re promoting… if you’re promoting a non-profit organisation it would probably count as noncommercial use, but other than that…


(Sago) #16

From http://www.iusmentis.com/copyright/crashcourse/requirements/:

"A work can be based, in whole or in part, on another work. In copyright law, it is then called a derivative work. Whether it is protected by copyright then, and whether it infringes on the copyright of the other work, depends on how much of the work was taken from the other work upon which it is based.

For example, a parody of a work often includes elements from the original work, together with new elements, which together produces a comical effect. Although the parody is based on another work, there is generally some creativity involved in creating the comical effect, which makes the parody protected. However, if the parody includes large portions of text from the original, then it infringes on the copyright of that original."

It’s indeed very tricky. when will it actualy be to much (“large portions of text from the original”), that it becomes infringing? I think the first important step is to have enough personal (my own) creative input. Enough new elements.

BTW, does a parody have to produce a comical effect in this case? Can the entertainment value be enough? perhaps those 2 things are the same…


(LetterRip) #17
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; … can promotional work be seen as nonprofit?

Unfortunately almost anything that you could eventually have even indirect commercial gain from is considered commercial use.

So, for example, if I were comparing blender and maya I could use screenshots etc from maya to explain my case - even though they’re copyrighted. It wouldn’t make sense to include a 3ds max screenshot in there, even if I had a license. However if I were making a general statement about 3d modellers in general, with no specifics, I would need a license to include parts of maya or 3ds max, since I’m not specifically criticising either.

Screenshots for a comparison would not be parody, but it would likely be protected under fair use, due to its usage in commentary. It shouldn’t matter whether you are making a direct comparison between Maya and Blender or a broad comparison between modelers in general.

Dago,

that article you are quoting from is not US but based on Dutch interpretation of copyright. The Dutch have much more permissive interpretations of copyright laws.

It’s indeed very tricky. when will it actualy be to much (“large portions of text from the original”), that it becomes infringing? I think the first important step is to have enough personal (my own) creative input. Enough new elements.

It is flat wrong that it is based on quantity (at least in relation to US law, but I suspect that is the case Netherlands as well). As noted above a three note sample has been found to be infringing. In my lay opinion, it appears that any recognizable element of a copyrighted work would probably be found infringing.

LetterRip


(artjunky) #18

Alright, I just want to figure out exactly where I was wrong in my statements as I don’t want to mislead anyone.

I guess as to the licensing issue I mostly referred to music, and the licensing process does work differently for other media. In music you can gain license by paying the fee even if the author doesn’t want you to. That does not spread to music used in other media as animations, though.

Of course that doesn’t mean sample their stuff and distribute it without going through the proper channels first. But sampling does happen all the time in the music industry, and they have their way of dealing with it.

You can use copywritten work on your demo reel. That’s pretty self explanatory. It’s how every radio dj in america gets their friggen jobs. And you’re not going to be sued for copywrite infringement for it. An animator can add music to their animations on their demo reel. As long as their not claiming they personally wrote and played the music, they’re going to be fine. They’re only trying to earn gainful employement in the copywrite industry, which, by the way, is America’s biggest export.

And yes, a copywrite is for a work, but it does protect the pieces of that work. The best thing to do is to just ask if you can use it for your animation. I work with several indie film directors down here and you would be amazed that sometimes a copywrite holder will give you permission, even some of the bigger bands and the like. Just explain to them the best you can about what you are doing, and many people in the industry are pretty nice. They’ve most likely been in your shoes before.

I think the most germaine point here is that yes, copywrite law is vague in places, even after the rewrite a few years ago. It’s just better not to mess with it without permission. Court is mightily expensive, especially considering in copywrite court the loser has to pay the winner’s legal fees in most cases. The chances of them coming after you are slim, but they are combing through all the file sharing systems they can find looking for people to go after.


(LetterRip) #19

You can use copywritten work on your demo reel.

Without permission of the copyright holder you are violating copyright law. As a legal matter it is a copyright violation - as a practical matter it is rarely enforced. As a practical matter you are also highly unlikely to be sued for downloading music off a filesharing network - that does not mean it is legal to do so.

Of course that doesn’t mean sample their stuff and distribute it without going through the proper channels first. But sampling does happen all the time in the music industry, and they have their way of dealing with it.

One of the articles I linked stated that all recording contracts have language to the effect that the artist swears that they haven’t sampled etc, and will be fully liable in the event of an infringment case. All sampling is now required to get the explicit permission of the copyright holder - and that the recording industry has set up ‘clearing houses’ to facilitate this.

I work with several indie film directors down here and you would be amazed that sometimes a copywrite holder will give you permission, even some of the bigger bands and the like.

Copyrights are generally held by the label these days, so asking the band may well not be sufficient to keep you out of legal hot water (many musicians are poorly aware of what obligations they have under their recording contracts and may in fact not have permission to grant you such usage themselves.)

I think the most germaine point here is that yes, copywrite law is vague in places, even after the rewrite a few years ago. It’s just better not to mess with it without permission.

Good summary :slight_smile:

Court is mightily expensive, especially considering in copywrite court the loser has to pay the winner’s legal fees in most cases. The chances of them coming after you are slim, but they are combing through all the file sharing systems they can find looking for people to go after.

The individual being found guilt of infringment having to pay the copyright holders attorney fees is contingent upon the copyright being registered.

Other nasty stuff is that wilfull infringement can carry hefty fines (7 times damages I think it is?)

LetterRip


(artjunky) #20

Okay, question.

Was the demo reel thing lifted in the last re-write of the laws? It has been a few years since I took Copywrite Law classes and I know it was an exception then. I also know they were in the middle of the re-write when I graduated, and while I work some with copywrites nowadays, it’s not nearly as much as I used to. I don’t think they would let me take copywrite law classes one hour than let me break those laws the next hour, though.

It’s amazing, I remember doing my first demo with music I mixed in ACID and was told it wasn’t professional enough. Use music that is being mixed on the station I’m applying for I was told.

Oh, and copywrites are almost always held by the label. Only a couple of huge named musicians get to keep their own copywrites. Still, you’d be amazed at how many indie films legally use copywritten music. The label should always send you a written statement that gives you permission before you use it. In 2003 my friend entered a film into the West Palm Beach Film Fest., and had an oral agreement to use a rock song in the film. Unfortunately, a hard copy never arrived and a local dj had to help out with music way too late.

And thanks for the info on the clearing houses. Musicians have had a little different set of rules to play by is what people have to understand. They’ve set up a set of rules that they abide by, that is what the clearing houses and the such do, mitigate between artists for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Musicians realized a while ago there are only so many rhythmic combinations, and they needed a way to deal with sampling for the benefit of the industry, as the industry has made some major greenbacks over the years off of it. The rules of this are more flexible, and have ways of changing themselves as the business evolves. To the distributors like Sony and the licensors like ASCAP all they really care about is money, and how to earn more of it.

I didn’t realize they could no longer sample without permission. They always had to acknowledge they sampled, but didn’t need permission. But it did get a little ugly with a few artists in the late 90’s into this millenium. My memory isn’t the best as far as examples, but I do remember the whole Coolio/Weird Al thing cracking me up for a while.

One other thing, what about covers then? Has that changed, too? Or does the venue still pay ASCAP and everything is all right. I just can’t see all these little local venues getting permission for every song a small band might play in their place.

Thanks for the info