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Vincent2013, JustAnswer Expert
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 213
Experience:  Qualified solicitor and barrister (non-practising) with 7+ years experience
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I am writing a book about a Cabaret Artiste and want to quote

Customer Question

I am writing a book about a Cabaret Artiste and want to quote parts of 1930's Song Lyrics
which are still copyright. My question therefore, is this :-
How much, if any, can one quote, from lyrics as stated above, without incurring liability for
Royalties ? The quotations would be contained in a novel, not for review purposes.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Vincent2013 replied 4 years ago.

Thanks very much for your question. My name's XXXXX XXXXX I'm going to assist you with it.


Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this because, unlike in the US, there is no "fair use" exception with regard to UK copyright law.


The key issue for determining whether copyright has been infringed would be whether there has been a reproduction of a "substantial" part of the lyrics in the book. Case law has evolved to show that this is both a qualitative and a quantative test. This means that it's not just the "amount" of the lyrics that is relevant but also the part of the song reproduced.


Generally short phrases and oneliners are not considered substantial but the question really to ask is whether what you are using is a key element of the song. If so, it's prudent to approach the copyright holder for consent.


Don't hesitate to let me know if I can clarify anything for you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dear Vincent 2013,

Thankyou for your answer re Lyric Copyrights. From your answer, it

appears that the only realistic way forward is to approach the publishers.

It seems that the whole issue is "Played by Ear" with "one liners" probably not being bothered about but anything else depending on whether the publisher considers that they may be at a loss financially.

Therefore, in early 2014, I shall have to go to London and meet publishers by appointment and "Grasp the Nettle".


Finally, I assume that my payment of £33 has been taken. If not or

there is something else I should do, please E Mail me on

[email protected]


Richard Walsh.

Expert:  Vincent2013 replied 4 years ago.

You're very welcome indeed. The only remaining matter is that I would be very grateful if you could take a brief moment to rate my answer.


Also, please do not hesitate to come back to me if you require anything else. Merry Christmas.