Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Specialty Topics › Legal Issues › Referencing song lyrics in a comedy film › Well, just to set the record
Well, just to set the record straight, Fair Use isn't "the often cited way around copyright in the US" as you suggest but is, in fact, a provision in Copyright law. And you're right, its use and limitations are very specific. Another way Daniel could stay legal if Fair Use seems too complicated or not applicable to his situation would be to put the short sentence in quotes and attribute it to its source and author at the end of his video piece.
Unfortunately here in the U.S., "just asking" is often all but impossible. Publication rights, sync rights, performance rights, etc., frequently are owned by more than one entity and can be very difficult to track down. Many years ago I spent six fruitless weeks trying to obtain permission to use a Firehouse Five Plus Two recording. After speaking with four different agents and spending hours on the phone I finally gave up. No one knew for sure who owned the rights I needed and there was no public record to which I could turn. Sometimes being honest isn't easy but respecting intellectual property rights is important and we must make every effort.