Writing Books/COPYRIGHT


Dear Rhonda

I am writing a book for a publication deal I have with a small independent publisher. It is a biographical piece about a year I lived in Hong Kong during which my business collapsed and I became addicted to crystal methamphetamine.

Looking at my contract, I see it is up to me to seek the relevant permissions. My question is do I need to seek copyright permission for the following:

I’ve written the first line of a couple of pop songs that were prevalent to my story and listed the names of approximately ten other songs (I was a DJ for a period and either played or danced to these tracks and the dance music scene features heavily in my book).

I quoted a couple of lines from two of my favourite films as they provided a good analogy of my situation at certain times.

I have quoted approximately 100 words apiece from two books that formed a key part of my life at the time and are integral to my story (i.e. when I’m explaining for the reader how it is to misinterpret passages of information when you are suffering from psychosis).

All of these works genuinely featured in my life. I am not writing to make massive amounts of money – just to tell an informative story that centres on the perils of drug misuse. I guess you could say the pieces are ‘incidental’ (i.e. it wasn’t my fault that these artists’ work played a part in my life!) and I am hoping that ‘fair use’ laws are sufficient.

I hope I haven’t asked you too much and thank you so much in advance.


Congratulations on writing your book and on meeting the challenges of healing from drug usage.

I encourage you to reference the U.S. Copyright office FAQs section "Can I Use Someone Else's Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?"  It's midway down the page at the below link:


From what you have written, I think the works would be permissable.  The 100 pages from the book might need the author/publisher's permission.  

When I am wrting, to be safe, I generally contact the author/publisher/estate (if the author is deceased), let them know what I would like to use the material for and get their permission to use a quote, lyric, etc. in my book.  This has worked very well for me.

And again, I'd reference the U.S. Copyright office via the link I provided.

Wishing you all the best!  

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Rhonda Campbell


I can answer questions on how to get published in magazines and newspapers; how to market your own books; how to earn a living writing; how to write press releases; how to find a good editor; how to edit your own books; finding a good printer; finding a good book illustrator; doing your taxes as a freelance writer. Questions I can't answer include specifics around working with a print on demand publisher


I have 36 years of experience as a writer (fiction and non-fiction). I am a book reviewer with Nielsen Media. I am a newspaper columnist and a reporter. I am a former radio station host and I am the editor of a literary newsletter, The Book Lover's Haven. I am also the author of more than 10 books.

Writer's Critique Group

The Trenton Times Philadelphia Trend Sisters in Style Essence Magazine The Pittsburgh Quarterly Obsidian II, etc.

I have taken numerous writing courses on book, proposal and grant writing as well as marketing and promotion

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