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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:47 pm 
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What can people tell me about the copyright status of film stills? If, for instance, I wanted to use a still from a 1930 movie as cover art for a book, and I can get the still from a library ro an agency like Photofest, would I also need permission from the studio? And how would I go about that?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:51 pm 
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Matt might know.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:54 pm 
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Read this.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:16 pm 
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Useful though his piece is, I don't think Bordwell addresses the issue of using a film still (as opposed to a frame enlargement) on the cover of a book. Would "fair use" really apply if you were using a high-quality reproduction of the image to help sell your book? I'm no IP lawyer, but it seems to me that there are definite copyright-clearance issues here.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:33 pm 
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If you're getting the picture from a licensing agency such as Photofest, Corbis, or Getty (and you are abiding by their license agreement), then you don't need permission from the studio or photographer or anyone else. That's why studios make stills available through agencies like this, so they don't have to deal with every permission request that comes down the pike.

However, it looks like Photofest's images are generally licensed for editorial use only, which means you can't use them commercially (on the cover of a book, for example). In obtaining permission to use the image, you need to tell the licensing agency exactly what you intend to do with the image. They'll likely charge you more to use it on the cover than they will to print it inside. In fact, they may want to know what the print run is going to be and for how long you expect the book to be in print so that they can determine how much to charge.

If anyone is interested in reading up on the gory details behind Bordwell's post, there's this.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and my opinion is no substitute for the advice of a licensed, practicing attorney.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:29 am 

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Another wrinkle to this is the "ownership" of stars' likenesses by their heirs - a whole 'nother territory opened up by Bela Lugosi, Jr., who has been known to go through the dealership rooms of conventions he attends confiscating items bearing his father's face -- even paintings done by fans. When we recently wanted to use a painting depicting Lugosi and Karloff in a scene from THE BLACK CAT on the cover of a magazine I edit, we covered our butts by contacting him and asking if it would be alright (it was) even though there were articles inside on TBC. Now I understand that Bela Jr would be less inclined to take action if you produced a book that was an in-depth study of the 1931 DRACULA and used a still (or frame grab) of his father on the cover than if you used the same image on the cover of a book on say, THE HORROR FILM TILL NOW. In the first case you'd be illustrating the material of the book, while in the latter you'd be using the image to sell the book (this is based, btw, on an actual incident where I'm told Bela Jr caused a publisher to recall its print run of a book for just that reason).
VIDEO WATCHDOG, for instance, has been using frame grabs for its illustrations for I-don't-know-how-many years without any problem (& they are clearly not a non-profit operation), but those grabs have always been linked to coverage of the films the grabs came from.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:41 am 
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HarryLong wrote:
VIDEO WATCHDOG, for instance, has been using frame grabs for its illustrations for I-don't-know-how-many years without any problem (& they are clearly not a non-profit operation), but those grabs have always been linked to coverage of the films the grabs came from.

Yes, rightholders generally turn a blind eye in these instances, because there's no particularly good reason to sue.

Sites like DVD Beaver, in the strictly legal sense of the term, are guilty of copyright infringement on a grand scale, but I don't for one second imagine anything's ever going to happen to them - in fact, I know many independent distributors welcome the Beaver's coverage and make sure Gary's name's on the mailing list of the very first batch of checkdiscs. And if you voluntarily send review copies to someone like him, you can hardly complain when he posts framegrabs - what with this being his entire modus operandi and all.

On the other hand, I was always told that although many rightsholders are happy to turn a blind eye (provided no money changes hands, or if the stills are being used for legitimate promotional purposes), you don't mess with Disney under any circumstances. Indeed, when I had to do some picture research at the Kobal Collection, there was a notice attached to the Mary Poppins file saying "on no account use these pictures without written permission of Walt Disney Productions" (or something like that).


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:38 pm 
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Here's a blog post by Jason Mittell, a professor at Middlebury College and a textbook author, that touches on this subject.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:27 pm 
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There's grounds for allowing reasonable quotation - including I would think framegrabs - in a critical context... Certainly by making discs available to DVDBeaver suggests the Producers do give implied consent, and said criticism can be published, in this case on the internet...

In the early 1990s Channel Four lawyers succesfully argued that Godard's HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA was a work of criticism making reasonable quotation of the constituent clips, stills, soundtrack extracts etc... Rather than proceed on a laborious path of clearing each individual item included, which probably would have been prohibitively expensive and would have neccessitated a lot of changes, they went ahead and transmitted as was, on the blanket legal basis it was a work of criticism... There was no comeback from any rights holders...


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:41 pm 

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Quote:
Here's a blog post by Jason Mittell, a professor at Middlebury College

Disney really is the Anti-Christ.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:51 pm 
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ellipsis7 wrote:
There's grounds for allowing reasonable quotation - including I would think framegrabs - in a critical context... Certainly by making discs available to DVDBeaver suggests the Producers do give implied consent, and said criticism can be published, in this case on the internet...

Framegrabs are often less contentious than official production stills - not least because you don't have to worry about the individual photographer's copyright.

Quote:
In the early 1990s Channel Four lawyers succesfully argued that Godard's HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA was a work of criticism making reasonable quotation of the constituent clips, stills, soundtrack extracts etc... Rather than proceed on a laborious path of clearing each individual item included, which probably would have been prohibitively expensive and would have neccessitated a lot of changes, they went ahead and transmitted as was, on the blanket legal basis it was a work of criticism... There was no comeback from any rights holders...

C4 made a similar argument about A Clockwork Orange, screening a documentary that included several laserdisc-sourced clips at a time when Warner Bros still prevented the film from being distributed in the UK. In this case Warner did complain, and in advance, but the screening went ahead anyway, so presumably C4's lawyers reckoned they had a legitimate "fair use" defence.

Mind you, it does depend on the end use: if it's intended for retail (book/DVD/whatever), then you'd be mad not to clear all the relevant rights - no distributor wants to be saddled with the expense of withdrawing, pulping/destroying and reauthoring a product, even before legal costs are taken into account.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:43 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
ellipsis7 wrote:
There's grounds for allowing reasonable quotation - including I would think framegrabs - in a critical context... Certainly by making discs available to DVDBeaver suggests the Producers do give implied consent, and said criticism can be published, in this case on the internet...

Framegrabs are often less contentious than official production stills - not least because you don't have to worry about the individual photographer's copyright.

Yep, stills have an different copyright life because the aforementioned Photographer has created the still images separate from the film, and thus can be difficile to clear...

Interestingly re. HISTOIRE(S), Godard had status as a critic and filmmaker when he approached this work, thus allowing him fair use and reasonable quotation of films in this work of criticism, so he did not have to bother to clear anything audiovisual for the C4 TX, but he was neveretheless careful to only use as additional music, stuff from the ECM CD library to which he was given blanket use by founder and Producer Manfred Eicher, I suppose music being an area he was not in critical engagement with... I think he continues to this day to use only ECM recordings on his films...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 6:01 am 

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Many year ago I spoke to a UK Video company who had withdrawn a cult movie. They got copyright clearance from the director who had the rights and they took out some sort of copyright insurance that covered them. Then they got a letter form a well-known US lawyer claiming he had copyright. They withdrew the film as they did not want to get in a tussle with this legal heavyweight.

On the other hand I have seen large companies often seen take copyright of pictures/books that were not theirs in the first place, but over time seem to have appropriated by them.

To me the copyright moral is if you are big enough you own the copyright. If you are a small player you have to prove that copyright is yours and have to have the money to take legal action.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:46 am 

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ellipsis7 wrote:
Interestingly re. HISTOIRE(S), Godard had status as a critic and filmmaker when he approached this work, thus allowing him fair use and reasonable quotation of films in this work of criticism, so he did not have to bother to clear anything audiovisual for the C4 TX, but he was neveretheless careful to only use as additional music, stuff from the ECM CD library to which he was given blanket use by founder and Producer Manfred Eicher, I suppose music being an area he was not in critical engagement with... I think he continues to this day to use only ECM recordings on his films...

Interestingly JLG did not aquire the rights for Deux fois cinquante ans de cinéma français (1995) - in fact we have several NO COPYRIGHT inserts in this film (however, the sound is there). On the other side it would be interesting to know in more detail how Gaumont managed to get the rights for their release of the Histoire(s) because over several years there was only the japanese version available where there is a different copyright law (i think). Regarding ECM i think its not just a rights issue but also a personal understanding between JLG and Eicher and how both of them treat their arts and work.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 4:18 pm 
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julianw wrote:
Many year ago I spoke to a UK Video company who had withdrawn a cult movie. They got copyright clearance from the director who had the rights and they took out some sort of copyright insurance that covered them. Then they got a letter form a well-known US lawyer claiming he had copyright. They withdrew the film as they did not want to get in a tussle with this legal heavyweight.

So did they apply for a refund for this "copyright insurance", as it clearly wasn't worth the paper it was printed on?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 5:37 pm 
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accatone wrote:
Regarding ECM i think its not just a rights issue but also a personal understanding between JLG and Eicher and how both of them treat their arts and work.

Yes, I suspect it is... But when Malick and many others use Arvo Part tracks for THIN RED LINE etc., I'm guessing they license the ECM recordings rather than rerecord their own, and don't proceed on the basis of mutual artistic respect ( which I'd welcome if it were universally accepted and enforced globally)...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 5:45 pm 
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ellipsis7 wrote:
But when Malick and many others use Arvo Part tracks for THIN RED LINE etc., I'm guessing they license the ECM recordings rather than rerecord their own, and don't proceed on the basis of mutual artistic respect ( which I'd welcome if it were universally accepted and enforced globally)...

Even if Arvo Pärt dropped dead this year, his work would still be copyrighted until 2079, so you'd still have to pay a licensing fee even if the performance was recorded specifically for the film.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 6:13 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
ellipsis7 wrote:
But when Malick and many others use Arvo Part tracks for THIN RED LINE etc., I'm guessing they license the ECM recordings rather than rerecord their own, and don't proceed on the basis of mutual artistic respect ( which I'd welcome if it were universally accepted and enforced globally)...

Even if Arvo Pärt dropped dead this year, his work would still be copyrighted until 2079, so you'd still have to pay a licensing fee even if the performance was recorded specifically for the film.

Michael, yes Arvo Pärt was in Dublin quite recently and I attended his PASSIO by the Hilliard Ensemble in Christ Church cathedral with him attending... Godard uses Arvo Pärt recordings without apparent licensing fees at Manfred Eicher's pleasure - but that only applies narrowly and licensing fees for composition, performance, publisher etc. are applicable otherwise, whether an ECM recording or otherwise... I'm pointing out that ECM must actually observe the realities mainly... Have all the ECM Pärt CDs from a way back - looking forward to new album IN PRINCIPIO out from ECM soon (6 March?)...

Quote:
"His music makes the basic human need for a link between aesthetics, ethics and spirituality clear and perceivable – a need so often subordinated to politics and economics in our society." Thus the words with which Arvo Pärt was awarded the International Bridge Prize of the twin cities Görlitz and Zgorzelec in 2007


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:29 am 

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MichaelB wrote:
julianw wrote:
Many year ago I spoke to a UK Video company who had withdrawn a cult movie. They got copyright clearance from the director who had the rights and they took out some sort of copyright insurance that covered them. Then they got a letter form a well-known US lawyer claiming he had copyright. They withdrew the film as they did not want to get in a tussle with this legal heavyweight.

So did they apply for a refund for this "copyright insurance", as it clearly wasn't worth the paper it was printed on?

I think they did not want to get involved and just took the hit.

I assume they needed to buy other film rights, so maybe upsetting a big player was not on. I take it if they claim on the insurance, the insurance company would have taken the case further to reclaim their payments


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 12:45 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
ellipsis7 wrote:
In the early 1990s Channel Four lawyers succesfully argued that Godard's HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA was a work of criticism making reasonable quotation of the constituent clips, stills, soundtrack extracts etc... Rather than proceed on a laborious path of clearing each individual item included, which probably would have been prohibitively expensive and would have neccessitated a lot of changes, they went ahead and transmitted as was, on the blanket legal basis it was a work of criticism... There was no comeback from any rights holders...

C4 made a similar argument about A Clockwork Orange, screening a documentary that included several laserdisc-sourced clips at a time when Warner Bros still prevented the film from being distributed in the UK. In this case Warner did complain, and in advance, but the screening went ahead anyway, so presumably C4's lawyers reckoned they had a legitimate "fair use" defence.

Mind you, it does depend on the end use: if it's intended for retail (book/DVD/whatever), then you'd be mad not to clear all the relevant rights - no distributor wants to be saddled with the expense of withdrawing, pulping/destroying and reauthoring a product, even before legal costs are taken into account.

Interestingly the BBC in their 1995 documentary on censorship Empire of the Censors did a similar thing with Clockwork Orange, and featured a lengthy extract of Tom Dewe-Matthews saying he was sitting in front of the illegal to own in the country at the time Laserdisc version of the film and performing an impromptu critique of some scenes ("Here Alex is playfully manipulating the phallic sculpture..."). Perhaps after it was used in that programme Warners were on the ball when it came to further uses. Not to mention that the Channel 4 film I think was shown in 2000. Could Warner have been advanced in their plans to 'reintroduce' Clockwork Orange to the UK at the time that the documentary was being made and didn't want their thunder stolen by a TV doc? Or by the documentary creating awareness among the Daily Mail set, giving them time to prepare for a "ban this sick film" campaign?

Did they make a similar fuss over the BBC Exorcist documentary (made in 1998, a couple of years before the Warner re-release of the film into cinemas), or the Channel 4 Blade Runner (of course a widely available film) or The Devils (still unreleased now, let alone eight years ago) documentaries? Because that would be the telling sign that their upset over Clockwork Orange was more timing and publicity related than a simple "keep away from my film!" annoyance at unauthorised usage.

I'll have to rewatch my video copy to check but Channel 4 most definitely showed 2 x 50 Years of French Cinema in their 1996 TV season of the BFI centenary films, and I think it included all the sound and visual clips intact. Would Channel 4 have used the same argument as they did when they previously screened Histoire(s)?


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:57 pm 
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colinr0380 wrote:
I'll have to rewatch my video copy to check but Channel 4 most definitely showed 2 x 50 Years of French Cinema in their 1996 TV season of the BFI centenary films, and I think it included all the sound and visual clips intact. Would Channel 4 have used the same argument as they did when they previously screened Histoire(s)?

I don't the know specifics of this one, only it was part of a series of documentaries produced country by country for the Centenary of Cinema (the one on Irish cinema was OURSELVES ALONE by Donal Taylor Black), the overall project I think led by the BFI... The documentaries I think were distributed as a package for broadcast worldwide (and were presold to/coproduced by Channel Four), and were released on BFI video in UK/Ireland, which suggests a more conventional clearance of clips may have come into play for Godard's piece this time... Maybe MichaelB knows more...


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:09 am 

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This is an interesting discussion.

I'm writing a book. It's my first book so I will be self-publishing it. The subject is: the films that inspired musicians and the music that inspired filmmakers. As such, it is paramount that I use screen-captures to connect music to visuals.

A positive is that my book will appeal to the academic and library markets as some chapters are instructive in nature. Others are more the reporting and history of the link between music and film which could have more general appeal to the music and film lover.

I plan on using screen-caps as fair-use, but I will make sure that the image quality is nowhere close to high quality. I don't want to give any studio the argument that they make money off of high quality images for books all the time and therefore, taking money from their pockets. I also will be using a photo of my own for the cover.

The good news is that I doubt that anyone would want to make my book the test case on which fair-use of screen-caps or frame-grabs is argued. The other aspect is damages. I doubt that a book that sets positive examples of films can be seen as anything but helpfully promoting the film. One possible argument that does concern me is that a studio can say that they make money from usage rights to low quality screen grabs all the time and therefore my book hurts future sales of these images. I think they would have a hard time showing that anyone would know whether I had paid for the rights or not, killing that argument. Certainly I will be acknowledging all copyright holders in the back of my book.

It is a shame that a professor can show a whole film in his class (for free) to illustrate his points yet if he were to write a book about that discussion, he is restricted in his free speech. Certainly most of us would agree that that professor should not be able to release the movie along with his running commentary as that would violate the rights of the copy holder. Yet there needs to be a reasonable way for that professor to connect to an audience outside of his classroom. I think that reasonable way is called a book and screen-grabs a reasonable part of free speech.

I noticed that Daniel J. Levitin, author of This is Your Brain On Music and a professor at McGill University is very careful about quoting lyrics in his book. If he were to quote lyrics from "Stairway To Heaven" he will will write something like:

"_ _ buying _ _ _ Heaven."

This comes across as very awkward but admittedly scary. If he is so afraid of copyright claims that he is doing that kind of stuff (for lack of a better phrase) in an academic focused book ... I'm concerned too. Such a shame.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:19 am 
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filmsyncs wrote:
I noticed that Daniel J. Levitin, author of This is Your Brain On Music and a professor at McGill University is very careful about quoting lyrics in his book. If he were to quote lyrics from "Stairway To Heaven" he will will write something like:

"_ _ buying _ _ _ Heaven."

This comes across as very awkward but admittedly scary. If he is so afraid of copyright claims that he is doing that kind of stuff (for lack of a better phrase) in an academic focused book ... I'm concerned too. Such a shame.

Music lyrics are controlled by publishing companies, and you must get permission or pay a license in order to legally reprint them in a book.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:09 am 

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Antoine Doinel wrote:
filmsyncs wrote:
I noticed that Daniel J. Levitin, author of This is Your Brain On Music and a professor at McGill University is very careful about quoting lyrics in his book. If he were to quote lyrics from "Stairway To Heaven" he will will write something like:

"_ _ buying _ _ _ Heaven."

This comes across as very awkward but admittedly scary. If he is so afraid of copyright claims that he is doing that kind of stuff (for lack of a better phrase) in an academic focused book ... I'm concerned too. Such a shame.

Music lyrics are controlled by publishing companies, and you must get permission or pay a license in order to legally reprint them in a book.

Music lyrics do not enjoy some special privileges over any other form of copyrighted speech. They are as valid for social and academic commentary as any other words (or images). Copyright law remains a judgment call on what is fair commentary and what infringes on the right of the underlying work. If I were to write out the full lyrics to a song, that would clearly be copyright infringement. However, if we lose our ability to be able to comment on individual lines of lyrics we have lost our freedom.

Certainly there are books that contain the lyrics of a musical group, I'm pretty sure that there is a 'complete book of Beatle lyrics' or the like. I'm sure some see the value of a bound assembled collection. However, for anyone that wants to find the full lyrics to practically any popular song (or album) that is easily available on the Internet ... for free.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:20 am 
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You're blurring a legal issue with a moral one. Yes, I agree, stills/lyrics etc are fair game for fair use, but the fact is, because of the way copyright laws are constructed authors take a chance if they use something without the proper clearances. There are some estates (particularly those of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole etc etc) that are extremely litigious. Look any CD and you will see "Music and lyrics copyright blah blah blah blah". Legally, you need to acquire permissions. As for those collections of Beatles' lyrics, you will probably find at the beginning or end of the book a "Reprinted with permission from...." statement (as you will in any biography or book that quotes lyrics exactly).


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