Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Referencing Existing Songs
demontales at 4:40PM, March 10, 2011
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posts: 305
joined: 7-18-2009
I've got two questions. First, is there any rules to referencing existing songs in a comic? Example: lyrics of a song from X band are coming out of a radio, or some people are briefly talking an existing album. I always thought that there was nothing wrong with that as long as the band is given credits in the notes because I've seen it often, but maybe someone knows better about the subject?

Second question: Should such references be avoided if the world isn't exactly our world, but similar. Here again an explantion: The world of my comic is pretty much the same as ours and anybody could say it's in North America, probably Quebec, but it is not exactly that because I don't want to be constrained by too much reality. But then, should I avoid real media/cultural references ?
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:10PM
Tim Wellman at 10:58PM, March 10, 2011
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posts: 164
joined: 1-14-2007
Song lyrics are copyrighted when the song is written. The copyright for music covers 3 areas… the music, the lyrics, and the audio recording. So, if you quote song lyrics you are violating copyright law.

Now, whether anyone would actually say anything is another question… if your comic hit the big time and was selling thousands of print copies, you could be assured someone would sue you… for a webcomic, who knows. I mean, the song ‘Happy Birthday To You’ is actually still copyrighted and how many times do you hear or read that? 2 or 3 years ago the comic Ninja High School used the entire lyrics from a Steve Miller song… this was a nationally published, distributed through Diamond, comic book and they didn't have any trouble. So, just depends… it is breaking copyright law… will anyone care, who knows.


If your comic is close to contemporary life then it usually helps to have it full of contemporary media and cultural references… news items are not copyrighted, so you can mention all sorts of things like that. But, for music, band names are also trademarked… and some bands are real dicks about it… if you mention Metallica in a comic, you'll almost certainly be sued, for example, and most musicians and celebrities also have their names and likenesses trademarked. Most product names are trademarked too… Coke, Pepsi, beer companies, etc… which is why you usually see slightly changed spelling in comics and cartoons… WacDonalds comes to mind… you see that in a lot of anime.

But overall, if your setting is contemporary, then using contemporary events helps ground the comic and make it more real in readers' minds.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:30PM
demontales at 10:59AM, March 20, 2011
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posts: 305
joined: 7-18-2009
Thanks for the clarification!
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:10PM

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