Sunday, July 31, 2016

Always Remember Your Permissions

In our media saturated culture, we’re constantly bombarded with movie lines, song lyrics, and witty pictures of cats that look like Einstein.  We post these to our social media pages without thinking twice.  However, places we need to think twice are our novels and our blogs.

I spoke a long time ago about why I rarely post pictures to this blog anymore.  It’s real easy to search for a funny picture on the internet and give it a goofy caption, but without permission of the photographer, you can find yourself having to pay lots of money you don’t have since it could be a copyright violation.

Song lyrics are the same way.  Some books use jaunty lyrics or a sad refrain to help shape the story, but if you look on the acknowledgements page, you should find where the label in question gave permission to the author to do so.  Without said permission, the singer or record label could sue the pants off of the writer for use of copyrighted material without permission.  So don’t go quoting your favorite Stevie Wonder song or Rolling Stones hit unless you’ve contacted them to make sure it’s okay.  And if you’re lucky enough to do that, get their permission in writing.

The “in writing” part is important.  If you don’t have that, consider that you don’t have permission.  It doesn’t matter if Sylvia from the secretarial pool said it was okay over the phone – her boss, or her boss’ boss, can say that you never got sanctioned permission, and *BAM* - lawsuit.

Obviously I wish it wasn’t this way.  There are lots of great lines, lyrics, and pictures out there that can enhance our work, but the law is the law, and you violate it at your own risk.  Put yourself in the position of the artist whose work you’re using – how would you feel if they used it without your permission in a way your found objectionable?  Maybe it gets used in a way you don’t care about, but not only did you work hard to be original, you also have to protect your work since if you start to overlook it with some stuff, your own legal rights may be damaged when someone uses it in a way you don’t like.

Quote your favorite movie to your friends all you like.  Sing Aerosmith songs or Billy Joel songs in the car until your vocal cords give out.  Share that funny cat pic on social media and make your friends laugh.  Just be wary of doing so on your blog or in a book you’re writing.  The financial and legal pain that might come with it could derail your career before it gets off the ground.

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