Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a £500 copyright licensing fee

From time to time I get a wee panic about Coffin Dodgers and I have to go and check that I took the U2 lyrics out: there’s a scene that revolves around a U2 song, and in the first few drafts of the book I quoted a couple of lines from it. That’s a no-no, as Blake Morrison explains:

For one line of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”: £500. For one line of Oasis’s “Wonderwall”: £535. For one line of “When I’m Sixty-four”: £735. For two lines of “I Shot the Sheriff” (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael’s “Fastlove” came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75. A typical advance for a literary novel by a first-time author would barely meet the cost.

The linked article is two years old. I very much doubt the fees have gone down since then.

[Via Lexi Revellian]

21 thoughts on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a £500 copyright licensing fee

  1. Squander Two says:

    True story (allegedly):

    Jazzy B sued The Beautiful South for their line “Back to bed, Back to reality” and of course won an absurd percentage of the royalties from whichever of their interchangeably banal singles that was. When they lost, they (they claim) went through the contract that assigned the rotalties to him and carefully replaced every instance of his name with the word “cunt”. Then they signed it. Apparently, there were no objections, so that is the contract used by Jazzy B to this day to claim his Beautiful South royalties.

    That one act has greater artistic merit than their entire musical output.

  2. Gary says:

    Incredible, isn’t it? In the US at least quoting a line or two absolutely should be allowable under fair use, but this is one of those “pay up or we’ll sue you” things where the potential costs of fighting back, even if you’re in the right, are prohibitive.

  3. Gary says:

    The problem, btw, is the market value test of fair use: essentially if you’re not quoting most of it and you’re not damaging the market value of the original work, then copyright law allows for that. Problem is that the music copyright owners in their typically accommodating manner say that any quotation is damaging market value, so for example if you quote a U2 song you’re making it impossible for U2 to make any money from that song ever again. Utter bollocks, of course, and to the best of my knowledge a two-line excerpt of that kind has never been found to be infringing in a court, but £500 is bugger-all compared to the cost of taking on the Rolling Stones’ lawyers in court.

  4. Squander Two says:

    Yes, which is also why Happy Birthday To You gets royalties. Legally, it’s out of copyright, but no-one wants to be the mug who pays a couple of million to prove that in court.

  5. Gary says:

    Yes, exactly. It’s a nonsense – even poetry’s good for a couple of lines before you need to pay. I’m not against copyright but this lawyer-driven shit is nonsense.

  6. mupwangle says:

    I always thought that the beautiful south didn’t get enough credit for being completely mainstream while writing songs that were really quite dark. LIke if HMHB went pop.

    Jo posted the video on FB. I laughed in a surprised way. :-)

  7. Squander Two says:

    Really? I always thought they got tons of credit for exactly that — a lot more than they deserved. But what they mainly did, surely, was be smug and bland. And Heaton is so absurdly arrogant that he wrote a song dismissing as second-rate hackery any song that contained a woman’s first name without considering whether maybe “Layla” or “Dear Prudence” or a hundred others might be better than anything he’d ever managed. Feh.

    Also, he has a voice like nails dragging a goose down a blackboard.

  8. mupwangle says:

    >>And Heaton is so absurdly arrogant that he wrote a song dismissing as second-rate hackery any song that contained a woman’s first name

    I can’t think of which song you mean unless it’s Song For Whoever, which I don’t think is about that at all.

  9. Snif says:

    Didn’t Carter USM get pinged and had to cough up for simply having the words “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday” in one of their songs?

  10. mupwangle says:

    >>that’s what he said it was about in interviews.

    Hadn’t read that. Different to the lyrics though. The lyrics appear to be about people having deliberately bad relationships in order to write songs about it. The non-single lyric seems to have a revenge aspect too.

    >>Didn’t Carter USM get pinged and had to cough up for simply having the words “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday” in one of their songs?

    Yup. After the Watershed is credited to Carter, Morrison, Richards and Jagger.

    Bollocks, but at least they shared it rather than take it entirely. Bittersweet Symphony was not written by Jagger and Richards.

  11. Gary says:

    To make the Bittersweet Symphony story even worse, the verve had tried to get a license but were told they’d used too much for it to be a sample. The agreed deal was then supposed to be 50/50, but when the record started to sell, ABKCO demanded and got 100%.

    Fuckers.

  12. Squander Two says:

    Not that it justifies the way they were treated, but what pisses me off about Bittersweet Symphony is that it’s one of the worst uses of a sample ever and the song would have been hugely improved by ditching it and hiring Craig Armstrong or Will Malone or Corin Dingley to do a proper string arrangement. I just get sick to death of hearing the same two bars again and again and again for the entire song.

  13. Gary says:

    “I just get sick to death of hearing the same two bars again and again and again for the entire song.”

    I think that describes pretty much everything Richard Ashcroft’s ever done :)

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