As part of my publishing contract, I am responsible for obtaining permission to quote copyrighted material.
At first, I debated whether or not I wanted to rewrite my manuscript omitting any references to copyrighted material. But after reading the selection over and over again, I decided to go through the process of obtaining permission.
In the manuscript, my mother and my sisters are rebelling against my father’s mandate to live in isolation. My mother, in particular, yearns to experience the freedom of friendships outside of work and home. She starts to sing “American Pie” and my sisters and I join her. The song is iconic of an era. It captures the mood of the scene, defines the chapter, and colors the entire book with its flavor.
I started my research by contacting the singer, Don McLean, who directed me to United Artists who directed me to Hal Leonard Corporation. Over a period of two months of negotiations, the corporation and I finally reached an agreement on the terms and conditions in which I could use a few lines of the lyric to “American Pie” in exchange for payment. Yes, I paid money for the right to quote a few lines from a song and I feel it was worth it.
Not every writer is willing or able to buy the right to reprint copyrighted material either because the copyright holder is unwilling to extend the right or a writer is unwilling to pay the price. A mutual agreement must be made.
In the event someone wants to quote from one of my books in the future, I will be in the position to negotiate the terms of the agreement. I can offer permission to use the quote for free, for a set dollar amount, or a percentage of the gross or net sales, or any other terms and conditions which are mutually agreeable. Until then, I will continue to be cognizant of what quotes I use in future works and diligent about obtaining permission.