About a year ago, I was searching for song titles by reading through quotes on the internet. I found what I thought was an amazing quote. It said something like “How can you be old and wise if you were never young and crazy”. The next day, I threw that title out and my co-writer and I wrote an great song. As soon as we could, we demoed it and started pitching it around town.
Six months later, I turn on the radio one day to hear “And here’s Frankie Ballard’s new single – ‘Young And Crazy'”. I knew right away that it HAD to be the same idea. Sure enough, it was – which killed my chances at getting my song cut – for a long time at least.
Recently, I had just written a song with an artist that he LOVED. The day he turned it in, his label said, “You know that’s the title of Kenny Chesney’s next single, don’t you?” Game over for my great song.
Did anyone steal my titles? Did I steal theirs? The truth is, you can’t copyright a title. The bigger truth is that I got those ideas from someone else anyway. I read quotes that had those ideas in them, so I can’t exactly accuse someone else of stealing MY ideas when they were borrowed in the first place. I can’t claim that something is mine that I never owned in the first place.
Even if all of my ideas were “completely original”, (and how many of us can claim that?), I came up with them based on things I’ve heard, read or come across in my life. They aren’t MINE. I’m free to use them, but I don’t own them and can’t keep others from coming up with them on their own as well.
We are all looking for ideas in the same places and are shooting for the same targets. We are going to write LOTS of the same ideas and concepts. If someone comes out with a song that has the same title as one of yours, pat yourself on the back. You’re on the right track! You are writing competitive ideas. Our job is to write the idea so well that no one else can write it better.
Don’t worry about someone writing a title that you also wrote. Just keep writing. The last thing you want to do is to accuse someone of stealing your idea and to discover (oops) that theirs was written first. Then YOU become the accused. That happened recently in the forum on SongTown. Someone accused someone else of stealing their title. When I looked into it for them, I found that the other song had been posted first. I had to then say “Do you want to be accused of stealing their title? If not, then don’t accuse others.”
We’re all fishing in the same pond. We might catch the same fish pretty often. That’s ok. Unless someone copies your melody and a significant portion of your lyric, you can’t accuse them of stealing your work. Titles are out there for everyone to use.
Songwriter/Producer/Handyman in Training