A question was brought up this week regarding the use of song lyrics for participation in the Thursday Theme Song Meme. So I sat out to find an answer. The majority of articles that I found referred to the copying of "music" like in the peer-to-peer music sharing sights, which we all have heard about, and know to be illegal. So I turned to the Law itself.
The law in general is a very confusing thing and copyright law is definitely no different. There are a lot of grey areas that can be interpreted in different ways. Working in the legal field for the past few years, I have found the "grey" areas to be frustrating at times but helpful at others. There is no clear cut answer to the posed question, but below is what I found to be the most relevant part of the 1976 Copyright Act. Sections 107 - 122 establish limits on copyrights with the major limit being "Fair Use".
One of the rights accorded to a copyright owner is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce their work. This right is subject to certain limitations. Section 107 of the Fair Use Doctrine contains various purposes that a reproduction may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining 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;
2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
3. The 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.
The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
It is this writer's opinion that the way in which we use song lyrics in our posts for the theme song meme, is not harmful, it is not for profit, nor does it effect the value or the potential market for the songs. Our posts are for our and our followers enjoyment. I personally feel that the risk is minimal. I enjoy creating my theme song post and sharing them with my friends.
I have actually learned several interesting things about copyrights. For instance, works created after January 1, 1978 have protection for the life of the author plus 70 years. Also, recipes that are merely lists of ingredients are not protected by copyright law.
Follow the links below if you would like to read more on copyrights: