I would like to write a one act play based on a song. Would I be violating any copyright issues or anything for this approach?

A music video was made for the song and one film used it for its opening introductions.

Does this apply to "quotes" as well?

  • I think details like who owns the rights to the song and if the dialogue in the play is lifted from lyrics in the song
    – EDL
    May 15, 2023 at 22:33
  • It would also matter which jurisdiction you are in and how much of the quote of lyrics/dialog you are using and how transformative your work is.
    – hszmv
    May 16, 2023 at 18:59
  • This might also be a better question to ask in the Law stack exchange as it's more about the legal aspect. A word or phrase is not copyrightable on it's own, even if it's part of a copyrighted work that coined the term. For example, there is nothing wrong for my character saying in frustration, "If you were a Dementor, I'd kiss you?!" However, if I make Dementor's an actual part of my world, then I should expect a letter from J.K. Rowling's Lawyer... who I imagine would be dressed as a large bird and hoot at me while I read it.
    – hszmv
    May 16, 2023 at 19:04
  • @hszmv That is not quite correct. The legislation around song lyrics is quite different from that around novels or news articles, for example. Song lyrics are special because they are usually so short in their whole that citing a single line is a very significant portion of the entire work. A line from a song lyric equals several pages from a novel! For a novel, that is no longer an acceptable citation within another commercial work, and in the same way citing a line from a song in a commercial work can become problematic. And in OP's case, he is basing his whole work on the whole song.
    – user55858
    May 16, 2023 at 19:36
  • That would never be acceptable, no matter in which jurisdiction he resides. You cannot simply create a play from Harry Potter and claim it is transformative enough.
    – user55858
    May 16, 2023 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


I assume for the basis of this question that the song is not in public domain.

If you were parodying the song itself, you would have a fair use defense. If not, however, fair use does not apply and you would have to get permission to use any portion of the song.

  • Thanks for the response. What if I wrote about the song without using the words.. just made a story out of it?
    – Lssd
    May 16, 2023 at 14:59
  • @Lssd Can you make a play out of Harry Potter if you don't cite any words? No, of course you cannot.
    – user55858
    May 16, 2023 at 19:40
  • You can use anything you like to inspire your writing as long as you don't infringe on copyright -- or trademark. (So you could write a play about Hank Parker if you liked.)
    – Mary
    May 16, 2023 at 23:49

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