Sunday, June 26, 2016

As Goes Music....?

In brief, apparently the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that it is absolutely fine for one musician to cut and paste a particularly good bit of someone else's copyrighted work into their own new work.

Is .23 seconds minimal?  One might think so, even if the new work is 120 seconds long.  How, though, would that compare to, say, cutting and pasting a 230-word scene from a 120,000 word novel?  Acceptable?  What do you think.

All the best,



  1. Such an insertion would be fine as a quote included in a nonfiction work, if clearly identified as a quote with the source cited. But not in fiction (unless it's taken from a public domain work and the author of the new work states somewhere that he or she acknowledges the borrowing, as in Fred Saberhagen's THE DRACULA TAPE and Barbara Hambly's RENFIELD, SLAVE OF DRACULA) except with the explicit permission of the original author.

    I'm not a musician, but I'd think a similar rule (or at least a custom as understood in a code of ethics) should apply to music. Public domain works, okay -- Elvis set "Love Me Tender" to the 19th-century tune "Aura Lee." But not works that are under copyright.

  2. Yes, "Homage" is a recognized way of paying tribute to fine works of the past that you use to build something new. Star Trek ToS did that a lot with Great Science Fiction writers -- and of course the Feinberger Device. And yes, you CAN quote with attribution one work of fiction inside another, if say a Character is reading a book. I did that in one Vampire story where the friend of a Vampire was reading a Chelsea Quinn Yarbro St. Germain novel and made a comment about Chelsea winning that lawsuit. Quoting and homage are fine -- stealing will backfire big time.