Song lyrics copyright laws

I’m working on my third book which is a crime novel inspired by the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s  Suzanne.   I’d like to call it Tea and Oranges- how do I stand re. copyright?

Replies (4)
  • There are two parts to this answer, Hilary. The first is generic, the second depends on whether you are going the self- or trad-pub route.

    So… part 1. Working title. It's only a working title, for your eyes only. And your alpha readers. And any agents, etc you send it to. As it's not published, you're not at any risk here.

    Part 2. Publication. If you're going the trad-pub route, the publisher will tell you if it's an issue for them or not. (As the publisher, it becomes their responsibility.) If, however, you're going the self-pub route… have a quick chat with a copyright lawyer.

    I'm guessing - and it is only a guess - that three words from the song's lyrics isn't going to be an issue. Unless the copyright owner (Sony/ATV Music) doesn't like your writing. It will, to a certain degree, depend on how "inspired" it is by the lyrics. Will the relationship be identifiable to anyone not in the know?

    • That’s very helpful - many thanks. Any connections are with place with no recognisable people.

      • If there's any basis, then, for the title deriving from the places, you can always claim that source of inspiration.

        • I am not a lawyer but I would think you are are on perfectly safe ground here so long as you are not purporting to be associated or endorsed in any way by Leonard Cohen or his estate. 'Tea and oranges' are three simple, generic words.
          Have a google around about copyright of song titles and you will find you can freely call your book 'Stairway to Heaven',  'Rocketman' or 'God Save the Queen' if you like.
          Go for it!

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